FMCSA Expands Emergency Regulatory Relief for Truck Transportation of Essential Supplies, Equipment, and Persons

COVID-19 Update

Date: March 19, 2020

Key Notes:

  • Certain regulations pertaining to commercial motor vehicle drivers and motor carriers are suspended to facilitate COVID-19 emergency relief efforts.
  • The suspension applies to transportation of essential supplies, equipment, and persons, including shipments of medical supplies, community safety and sanitation supplies, food, and the raw materials used to produce these items.
  • The suspension ends upon termination of the COVID-19 emergency or April 12, 2020, whichever is earlier.


On March 18, 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an Expanded Emergency Declaration suspending enforcement of its hours-of-service, driver qualification, and other regulations set forth at 49 C.F.R. Parts 390-399 for commercial motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to emergency relief efforts related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The FMCSA’s hours-of-service rules limit the hours a driver can drive and impose minimum rest periods. By suspending these and other rules, the FMCSA intends to “help … get [] critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently.”[1] The relief is designed to help retailers, manufacturers, health care providers, and government agencies address shortages of critical goods and supplies and position them in areas directly impacted by COVID-19.

Truck transportation eligible for relief under the Expanded Emergency Declaration includes transportation to meet immediate needs for:

  1. Medical supplies and equipment related to COVID-19 testing, diagnosis, and treatment.
  2. Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectants.
  3. Food, paper products, and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores.
  4. Immediate precursor raw materials—such as paper, plastic, or alcohol—required and to be used for the manufacture of items 1, 2, or 3, above.
  5. Fuel.
  6. Equipment, supplies, and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19.
  7. Persons designated by federal, state, or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes.
  8. Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services that may be affected by the COVID-19 response.

The relief that that the Expanded Emergency Declaration provides is subject to limitations, including:

  • It does not apply to routine commercial deliveries and transportation of mixed loads with a small quantity of emergency relief items added to obtain the benefits of the Expanded Emergency Declaration.
  • It does not apply to a driver or vehicle upon termination of direct assistance to emergency relief efforts. Direct assistance terminates when a driver or vehicle is used to transport cargo or provide services that are not in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19 outbreaks or when a carrier dispatches a driver or vehicle to a location to begin operations that are not in support of those emergency relief efforts.
  • If a driver requests immediate rest, the carrier must allow the driver at least 10 consecutive hours off duty if the driver transports property; eight hours if transporting passengers.

The Expanded Emergency Declaration is effective until 11:59 Eastern Time on April 12, 2020, or the COVID-19 emergency ends, whichever is earlier.

Additional Resources

We have assembled a firmwide multidisciplinary task force to address clients’ business and legal concerns and needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see our COVID-19 Task Force page for additional information and resources.


For more information about the Emergency Declaration and how it impacts your business, please contact:

Karyn A. Booth

Jason D. Tutrone

or any member of our Transportation practice group.

This advisory bulletin may be reproduced, in whole or in part, with the prior permission of Thompson Hine LLP and acknowledgment of its source and copyright. This publication is intended to inform clients about legal matters of current interest. It is not intended as legal advice. Readers should not act upon the information contained in it without professional counsel.

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