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For the first time in 82 years the hour of services (HOS) laws for truck drivers have been relaxed to help get needed supplies to struggling businesses and hospitals across the  United States. As the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 has turned into a pandemic and rumors of a lock down similar to that of Italy circulating – people are scrambling to get necessities at their local store whether that’s cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, or toilet paper.

As stores run out of goods – it’s up to the truck drivers across the country to deliver products to ensure businesses run smoothly. According to the American Trucking Association – truck drivers are responsible for moving 71% of all freight tonnage in the United States enabling stores to restock their shelves and ensure hospitals can get the medical supplies they need to treat those effected by the pandemic.

The HOS laws were put into place in 1938 – limiting the amount of hours a truck driver can work. Those laws have been relaxed as of Friday March 13, 2020 for those drivers that are moving medical supplies, masks, and hand sanitizer to stores and hospitals.

In an official statement by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Acting Administrator Jim Mullen stated,  “Because of the decisive leadership of President Trump and Secretary Chao, this declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently. FMCSA is continuing to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak and stands ready to use its authority to protect the health and safety of the American people.”

According to the press release, critical goods include medical supplies and equipment including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and soap; food for emergency restocking of stores; and equipment, supplies and persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19. The guidelines also include moving first responders and those who must be moved due to quarantine, medical or isolation purposes.

While the laws have been relaxed as of Friday, truck drivers must receive a minimum of 8-10 hours off duty once the transport has been completed. The report states that the reduced HOS laws are in effect until after the National Emergency has ended or on April 12, 2020 – which ever comes first.

In a statement to Business Insider, Sean McNally, the spokesperson for the America Trucking Association explained, "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.” McNally went on to say, "This waiver will help keep loads of medicine, supplies and food moving as the country manages this current pandemic."

As the country scrambles to contain the virus from spreading further – state and federal government have restricted movement in the country closing restaurants, bars, and schools to try to “flatten the curve” or slow the virus enough so the healthcare system is not completely overwhelmed where sick patients are denied live saving care due to hospitals being at capacity.

To make sure healthcare system do go without the needed medical supplies to protect themselves and patients from infection – truck drivers are racing against the clock to delivers these products. Relaxing the HOS laws are one of the ways that truck drivers are helping combat the pandemic and doing their part to keep the “curve” as flat as possible.

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 Danielle Loughnane

Danielle Loughnane earned her B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has currently been working in the data science field since 2015. She is the author of a comic book entitled, “The Superhighs” and wrote a blog from 2011-2015 about working in the restaurant industry called, "Sir I Think You've Had Too Much.” In her spare time she likes reading graphic novels and snuggling with her dogs.

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