Knowing the COVID-19 Exemption Rules
The U.S. and Canadian governments have issued service hours exemption rules on March 18th and 24th in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Carriers and drivers must know if the merchandise transported qualifies for the exemption and be sure to have the required documentation on board, depending on the jurisdiction.
To see the official exemption publications for both Canada and the U.S., use the links below.
Note that the Canadian exemption applies to extra-provincial truck undertakings, and that individual provinces may have issued a rule for intra-provincial truck undertakings.
Canada – Essential Freight Transport Exemption
U.S. – Expanded Emergency Declaration under 49 CFR § 390.23 – No. 2020-002: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/2020-03/EXPANDED%20EMERGENCY%20DECLARATION%20UNDER%2049%20CFR%20%C2%A7%20390.23%20No.%202020-002.pdf
HOS Logging for COVID-19 Emergency Transportation
To ensure roadside inspections go smoothly, drivers need to be clear on how to handle service hours logging when carrying out COVID-19 emergency operations. In Canada, drivers must maintain a daily log or use an electronic recording device to record their hours of driving, on-duty, and off-duty time. Drivers in the U.S. are not required to keep a logbook, whether paper or electronic, for transport that falls under the exemption. Nonetheless, the FMCSA does suggest 3 options for drivers that normally use an ELD, which you can read about on their FAQ page: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/2020-03/FMCSA_FAQs_HOS_ED_3-19-2020.pdf
The options suggested by the FMCSA can also be considered when travelling in Canada to provide COVID-19 essential freight transport. You’ll want to consider the pro’s and con’s of each option before choosing the one that suits you best.
3 ELD Options for COVID-19 Emergency Transportation
- Use the ELD’s personal conveyance function to record service hours that fall under the exemption. This will result in the time being recorded as off-duty. We view this as a good option. Regular driving hours are not affected and no violations resulting from emergency transport are displayed on the ELD. It is important however, to include a comment about the emergency exemption on this off-duty time.
- Use the ELD in its normal mode and annotate the regular driving hours to mention the emergency relief exemption. With this option, regular driving hours are affected and the ELD displays violations when the regular driving time maximum is reached, which can be distracting for the driver.
- Turn off the ELD, to have the hours recorded as unassigned driving. The carrier will then need to document these records as falling under the emergency relief exemption. This option prevents the driver from using the ELD altogether and benefiting from other valuable features that help make operations smooth.
Regardless of the option used for logging COVID-19 emergency transportation service hours, the important thing is to annotate the records to mention the exemption.
Stress-free roadside inspections are always best, and even more so in today’s current situation that places extra demand on our truckers!