Truck drivers moving medical supplies and consumer goods – items like surgical masks and hand sanitizers – to replenish supplies at hospitals and stores do not have to follow hours-of-service (HOS) laws in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said Friday.

The administration temporarily suspended the 82-year-old law in order to ensure local grocery stores and hospitals have the items consumers need, and that consumers don’t resort to “panic buying” for household goods and medical supplies. Panic buying often arises when a national emergency or natural disaster occurs.

“Waivers of this type are a common response by FMCSA to natural disasters and crises because trucks delivering food, fuel, and medicine are a critical part of the response,” American Trucking Associations spokesperson Sean McNally said in a statement to Business Insider. “This waiver will help keep loads of medicine, supplies, and food moving as the country manages this current pandemic.”

Currently, the HOS law limits truck drivers to only 11 hours of driving within a 14-hour work period followed by a 10-hour “off-duty” time. The law was created to keep exhausted truck drivers off the roads where they pose risks to other drivers.

Drivers temporarily exempt from HOS restrictions include those carrying loads of medical supplies and equipment to test, diagnose and treat COVID-19; supplies necessary for community sanitation and the prevention of community transmission of COVID-19, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, soap, and disinfectants; and food for emergency restocking of stores.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) FMCSA provides regulations for the safe operation of commercial vehicles. Federal rules and regulations include drivers, vehicles, hazmat situations, companies and regulatory guidance. Companies and drivers must comply with rules governing such areas as fatigued driving (Hours of Service), vehicle maintenance, cargo, driver fitness, substance abuse and many other areas.

Chris Glover, Managing Attorney of our Atlanta office, handles cases involving commercial vehicles including 18-wheelers, buses and heavy trucks. He is familiar with the special investment of time and resources, and a detailed knowledge of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations that comes with handling a case involving an 18-wheeler, log truck or other commercial vehicle.

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