DoT Revises Trucking Rules, Extends Emergency Declaration

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), part of the Department of Transportation, announced rule changes for truck drivers Thursday. In a press release, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said ” “America’s truckers are doing a heroic job keeping our supply chains open during this unprecedented time and these rules will provide them greater flexibility to keep America moving.”

Specific changes include alterations to the 30-minute break rule, allowing for “on-duty, not driving” activity to count toward a break and an expanded definition of what is considered short-haul trucking. The changes also extend the allowed time that haulers are permitted to drive in adverse weather conditions.

The Department of Transportation described the rule changes as a “modernization.” The rulemaking process began last year when the agency sought comment on how it could “alleviate unnecessary burdens placed on drivers while maintaining safety on our nation’s highways and roads.”

James P. Hoffa, president of the Teamsters union, said in a statement that “In an effort to increase so-called ‘flexibility’ for trucking companies, the FMCSA is abandoning safety and allowing drivers to push themselves to the limit even further.” The changes will go into effect in the fall.

The FMCSA extended an already-in-place Emergency Declaration designed to “regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreaks.” Qualified activities include transporting medical and sanitation goods, food, material for temporary housing, and raw materials for certain products.

An advocacy group also recently requested rural infrastructure funds from Congress in light of the pandemic.