Coronavirus: HOS law for truck drivers suspended until June 14

  • A decades-old and much disliked safety law governing America's 1.9 million truck drivers will remain suspended for emergency freight transportation until June 14. 
  • The hours-of-service law, as it's called, mandates how many hours a truck driver may work.
  • The original suspension was declared on March 13. 
  • It's the first time since 1938, when the law was put in place, that the hours-of-service law has been lifted on a national level.
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A decades-old and much disliked safety law for America's 1.9 million truck drivers will continue to be suspended for emergency freight movements until June 14, the federal agency that oversees commercial drivers said on Wednesday. On March 13, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said that truck drivers who are moving goods "in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks" will temporarily not have to follow the hours-of-service laws, which mandate how many hours a truck driver may work. The declaration has since been extended and expanded twice. 

It's the first time since 1938, when it was put in place, that the hours-of-service law has been lifted on a national level. It's common for state and local governments to lift the rule amid natural disasters, as consumers "panic buy" household goods and hospitals need medical supplies.  Around 70% of the nation's goods by weight is moved by a truck -- so efforts ensuring that they can get to your local grocery store or hospital ramp up in times of crisis. 

"Everything from the fuel you put in your vehicle to consumables in your home all get put in play because of a truck driver," Tampa-based truck driver Dennis Felix-Shannon previously told Business Insider. 

AP_20122003283768 Truck driver Juan Giraldo poses for a photo in Wilmington, California, in April.AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

In its current edition, HOS requires truck drivers to drive only 11 hours within a 14-hour work period. They must then log 10 hours of "off duty" time. The safety law, which is aimed at eliminating exhausted truck drivers from the nation's highways so they do not endanger others, is disliked by many drivers.

Some say the strict regulations actually disrupt their sleep schedule and make them more likely to drive tired.  According to the FMCSA's May 13 declaration, which can be read here for more details, here are the types of loads that are exempt from HOS laws:

  1. Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of the coronavirus
  2. Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of the coronavirus, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectants
  3. Food, paper products, and other groceries
  4. Raw materials -- like paper, plastic or alcohol -- that would be used to produce food, paper products, medical supplies, and other essential goods
  5. Fuel
  6. Liquefied gases to be used in refrigeration or cooling systems
  7. Equipment, supplies, and people necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities
  8. Federal, state, or local authorities, or professionals necessary to establish medical or emergency centers

Why are people on the list of "loads"? The emergency declaration, and the 82-year-old safety law, covers bus drivers, too.  

Are you a truck driver with an interesting story on how the coronavirus has affected you?

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