Rick Malchow - Industry Business Advisor, J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc.
March 19 , 2020
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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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