Cash Market Moves

Trucking Hours of Service Relief Declared During National Emergency

Mary Kennedy
By  Mary Kennedy , DTN Basis Analyst
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This is the scene playing out in many U.S. grocery stores, where panic buying has been rampant because of the fear over the spread of the coronavirus. (Picture by Kelly Moshier)

When many consumers pay a visit to their local grocery stores, they will likely be staring at aisles of empty shelves. In some areas, it has gone from empty aisles of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, water and cleaning supplies to now empty shelves at some stores of eggs, meat, pasta, rice, flour, butter, milk, and you can expect that list will continue to grow. Many are afraid that if the virus overwhelms the U.S., there may be a lack of supplies at their local grocery store. Now, with the addition of closed schools, school-aged children will be home all day, adding more to the grocery list for some parents.

As of right now, there is no reported shortage of food items and other staples, and stores continue to restock. Many chain and warehouse grocery stores continue to get deliveries, but as fast as they stock shelves, consumers clear them off. There are now limits in many stores on things like toilet paper, facial tissue, hand sanitizer and cold relief items, just to name a few. These limits were put in place in an effort to stop the hoarding that has been taking place.

On March 13, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus outbreak. "This declaration is the first time FMCSA has issued nation-wide relief and follows President Trump issuing of a national emergency declaration in response to the virus," according to the FMCSA website.

"Because of the decisive leadership of President Trump and Secretary Chao, this declaration will help America's commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently. 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," said FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen.

The FMCSA website notes that the declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs for:

-- Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.

-- Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for healthcare worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities.

-- Food for emergency restocking of stores.

-- Equipment, supplies and persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19.

-- Persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes.

-- Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services.

FMCSA made it clear that, "To ensure continued safety on the nation's roadways, the emergency declaration stipulates that once a driver has completed his or her delivery, the driver must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property and eight hours if transporting passengers."

One thing facing U.S. citizens, besides, of course, concern over the spread of the virus, is what will happen tomorrow or the next day and the fear of the unknown can be very powerful. The cancellations and/or postponements of professional sports, college sports, concerts, airline travel plans, large group gatherings, schools and much more, have added to the chaos caused by the coronavirus. The emergency declaration of the FMCSA is one important step that could hopefully ease some of the anxiety felt by so many people, myself included.

Here is a link to FMCSA national emergency declaration: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/…

Mary Kennedy can be reached at mary.kennedy@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @MaryCKenn

(BE/CZ)