The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is suspending the hours of service rule after the declaration of a national emergency in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The move is meant to facilitate the timely delivery of goods that support emergency relief efforts such as medical supplies and food. It marks the first time that FMSCA has issued nationwide relief from the hours of service rule since it was originally enacted back in 1930.
“This declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently,” FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen said in a press release. “FMCSA is continuing to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak and stands ready to use its authority to protect the health and safety of the American people.”
The waiver applies to the transportation of medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19. The waiver also applies to the transporting of food for emergency restocking of store shelves, as demand on grocery store inventories has increased exponentially. Other emergency relief efforts include the transport of supplies such as masks, gloves, disinfectants, sanitizers, and soaps intended for the healthcare community.
“While local, independent grocers are currently experiencing an unprecedented demand in store traffic and for product and goods, we continue to work closely with the President and our federal, state and local officials nationwide to ensure the resilience of both the food supply chain and our local economies,” National Grocers Association President and CEO Greg Ferrara said in a news release. “America has the most efficient and effective supply chain in the world and stores continue to be restocked consistently.”
Many grocery stores around the country are expanding the hours they are closed in order to clean and sanitize stores and restock inventory. Unless the situation changes, the waiver is intended to remain in effect until April 12.