The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration quietly repealed a more than two-year-old national exemption from hours of operation, with support from both major trucking companies and truck safety advocates.

Exemption first issued by FMCSA in March 2020 since the national emergency declared by President Trump in response to COVID-19, has been extended and/or modified more than 10 times. This has given truck drivers and hauliers more flexibility in delivering cargo of livestock, medicine, vaccines, groceries and diesel fuel, removing restrictions on working hours.

But the most recent extension, which was issued in September and expired Saturday, was not renewed, based on information posted on the FMCSA website. “There are no active ones [Federal] a state of emergency has been declared at this time,” says the website said on Sunday.

FMCSA was not immediately available for details on why the exemption was no longer necessary — a change that appeared to counter a decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday, which reinstated its decision that a public health emergency still exists.

However, FMCSA noted in the September expansion that certain cargoes are carried under an exemption steadily decreased. In addition, repealing the exemption was supported by both the American Trucking Association and the Coalition for Truck Safety, two influential groups that rarely agree on issues before the agency.

“While ATA appreciated emergency assistance in the early stages of the pandemic, most ATA members no longer believe it is necessary to continue assistance,” the group said in response to FMCSA’s request for comment on the latest extension. “ATA members continue to express concern that permanent regulatory relief could be used to circumvent working time rules or facilitate abuse of the rules.”

In asking FMCSA to deny another extension, the Truck Safety Coalition noted a 13% increase in truck crash deaths between 2020 and 2021. as a result of a fatal accident,” the coalition said.

On the other hand, livestock and feed haulers, who remained exempt from the hours regulations throughout the national emergency, were among the biggest supporters of continuing the exemption.

FreightWaves OTRI Index, 3 Months to October 14, 2022 Declining tender rejections are an indicator of softening truck capacity.
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“Agricultural shippers face significant rail challenges, and emergency freight has been indispensable to meet demand,” said FMCSA’s Michael Seifert, president and CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association.

“Even though truck capacity is limited, agricultural shippers have been forced to find additional freight to fill the void where rail is unavailable or unreliable. While the trucking industry is doing everything it can to help with the challenges of rail transportation, the amount of freight is limited,” Seifert added.

However, data measuring truck capacity and spot prices do not match the NGFA market estimate as truck tender rejections – a barometer of capacity – recently hit a new low.

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