COVID-19 Hours of Service FAQ's for Transporters

Top two questions around the HOS rules for those drivers and transporters who fall under the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration.


Rick Malchow - Industry Business Advisor, J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

April 27 , 2020

The FMCSA extended its emergency exemption for COVID-19 relief efforts through July 14, 2020. Read the article here.

Here are the top two questions we've received around the hours of service rules for those drivers and transporters who fall under the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration.

What are the FMCSA’s Hours of Service (HOS) Rules for Carriers and Drivers During the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration?

FMCSA’s HOS rules for carriers and drivers during the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Period states that only drivers and carriers engaged in direct assistance of the emergency relief effort (as defined within 49 CFR 390.5 and the most recent FMCSA emergency declaration), there is no requirement to track hours – on-duty, off-duty, or total — using time records, paper logs, or ELDs.

For property-carrying drivers exclusively engaged in direct assistance of the emergency relief effort, it means that there’s no requirement to:

  • Take 10-consecutive hours off-duty between shifts,
  • Follow required 14-hour on-duty, 11-hour driving, or 60/70 hour maximum limits, and
  • Take a rest break.

However, property-carrying vehicle drivers may not operate ill or fatigued in violation of section 392.3.

For passenger-carriers, it means that there is:

  • No requirement to take 8-consecutive hours off-duty between shifts,
  • No requirement to adhere to the 15-hour cumulative duty clock, and
  • No driving limit or 60/70 hour maximum limit.

However, passenger-carrying vehicle drivers may not operate ill or fatigued in violation of section 392.3.

When a driver is moving back to normal operations and not providing direct assistance, a 10-hour break is needed when the total time a driver operates conducting emergency relief efforts, or a combination of emergency relief and normal operations equals 14 hours.

What if My Drivers Have an ELD and are Driving Under the Emergency Declaration?

If your drivers are operating under the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration and have an ELD installed, it’s in your best interest to apply a consistent approach to tracking their exempt hours.

The ELD will continue to keep track of hours, whether the driver logs in or not. However, not logging into the ELD will cause unassigned drive time. And these unassigned events are not exempt from being explained. If they are not explained, there’s no way to document that the movement was exempt. The explanation does not need to be overly detailed. Something to the effect of “emergency exempt move,” and the bill of lading number would be enough.

Rather than dealing with all the unassigned events, it may be easier for drivers to log into the ELD. There are two options here:

  • Annotate the record as “emergency assistance,” or
  • Use the personal conveyance driving category while providing relief. However, since the exemption isn’t personal, the driver would need to annotate the record “emergency movement.” The time will be recorded as off-duty driving and not trigger hours-of-service limit warnings from the ELD if your ELD has auditing capabilities. We recommend this option.

If your ELD has auditing capabilities, and the driver is doing a mix of work or using the annotation option, violation flags will still be created. Violation flags do not necessarily mean that a violation occurred; they are intended as time savers so that an auditor can take a closer look at the circumstances. When reviewing, make sure the flag was due to the exempt time and make a note of it on the record. If the flag is not due to the exemption, follow your corrective action processes.

It's critical to have an understanding of the HOS requirements, and exemptions if your drivers use them. Having a trusted compliance partner who can advise on best practices and ensure your HOS program meets regulatory requirements goes a long way towards reducing risk, easing your mind, and protecting your safety rating. Learn more about staying compliant with FMCSA HOS rules.


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