President Trump signs PPP Flexibility Act

The PPP Flexibility Act makes several critical changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was created under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The changes provide relief to many businesses currently using PPP loan proceeds and preparing to seek loan forgiveness within the requirements of the CARES Act.

Key Points

  • The forgiveness period is extended from 8 weeks to 24 weeks (which should almost guarantee that everyone can get the entire amount forgiven)
  • The maximum amount that can be used for items other than payroll is increased from 25% to 40%

You can find additional information concerning the PPP Flexibility Act online at National Law Review.

RMV re-opens Boston Haymarket B2B Service Center

Due to the evolving situation with COVID-19 (coronavirus) and in an effort to continue protecting RMV staff, customers, and business partners, the RMV is re-opening an additional B2B Center at the Boston Haymarket RMV today (June 8).

This is in addition to the existing Attleboro, Chicopee, Milford, and Wilmington dedicated B2B Service Centers. New IRP transactions will not be processed at Haymarket (Boston) B2B.

In following social-distancing practices, these B2B facilities and services will be for drop-off B2B transactions/bundles only.

The RMV continues to serve members of the general public on an appointment-only basis at additional locations, consolidated into the larger service centers, and has redeployed teams from nearby, closed offices to ensure staffing resources are available to assist customers and business partners like you.

Please note: Any B2B service requests appearing at other open service centers will be redirected to Attleboro, Chicopee, Haymarket (Boston) Milford, and Wilmington RMVs.

In keeping with recommendations from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the RMV has also adopted enhanced cleaning practices for its facilities, purchased additional contactless hand sanitizer dispensing stations, issued anti-viral disinfectant wipes and individual-size hand sanitizers to certain employees, and expanded areas to be disinfected.

OSHA revised guidance for recording COVID-19 illnesses

On May 19, OSHA revised its April 10 interim guidance regarding the enforcement of the agency’s injuries and illness recording requirement of COVID-19 cases. The most notable revision is the elimination of enforcement discretion in areas where there is ongoing community transmission of COVID-19, and where the ability of employers in specific industries to determine work-related transmission is difficult.

OSHA expects all employers to investigate employee COVID-19 illnesses to determine whether the illness is likely work-related, based on information reasonably available to the employer. If, after a reasonable and good faith inquiry, the employer cannot determine whether it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace played a causal role concerning a particular case of COVID-19, the employer does not need to record that COVID-19 illness.

Click here for a summary of the revised OSHA guidance.

Attleboro dedicated B2B service center opens May 26

Due to the evolving situation with COVID-19 and in an effort to continue protecting RMV staff, customers, and business partners, the RMV is opening an additional dedicated B2B Center at the Attleboro RMV next Tuesday, May 26.

This is in addition to the existing Milford, Wilmington, and Chicopee dedicated B2B Service Centers. New IRP transactions will not be processed at the Attleboro B2B but will still be conducted at the Milford and Wilmington Service Centers.

In following ‘social-distancing’ practices, these B2B facilities and services will be for drop-off B2B transactions / bundles only and not serve or allow entry to the general public. You will not be allowed to wait in any of these locations for pick-up.

The RMV continues to serve members of the general public on an appointment-only basis at additional locations, consolidated into the larger service centers, and has redeployed teams from nearby, closed offices to ensure staffing resources are available to assist customers and business partners like you.

Please note: Any B2B service requests that appear at the service centers that serve the general public will be redirected to Attleboro, Chicopee, Milford, and Wilmington RMVs.

In keeping with recommendations from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the RMV has also adopted enhanced cleaning practices for its facilities, purchased additional contactless hand sanitizer dispensing stations, issued anti-viral disinfectant wipes and individual-size hand sanitizers to certain employees, and expanded areas to be disinfected.

RMV implements staggered IRP renewal mailing

Due to the current pandemic and to manage volume, all International Registration Plan (IRP) renewals processed through the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) have been divided into two groups: renewals in May and June. The expiration month you have been assigned is your group designation.

  • May expirations are for Fleets 288770002 to 351880001 and have been mailed.
  • June registrations are for Fleets 20001 to 288760001, and are scheduled to mail approximately May 22.

All applications will be processed in the order received for the assigned month. If you do not process in your assigned month, your application will be processed in the order received after the current month. This may cause a delay in receiving your credentials.

This year, the RMV is only allowing mail-in and online IRP renewals. Click here for details on the process to renew.

Reopening Massachusetts – Trucking industry-related information

The plan to reopen the Massachusetts economy has been published on the Mass.gov website and includes information applicable to the trucking industry. Although this information is current as of publication, future adjustments are certainly possible. As usual, TAM will continue to keep you up-to-date, but we encourage you to monitor the Reopening Massachusetts website for updates.

Currently, employers and employees in the our industry operating under the original Executive Order from March 23 have until May 25 to comply with sector-specific protocols if applicable.

Reopening will be completed in a Four-Phase Approach. Phase 1 started May 18 as a staggered-start, and continues through June 1. Following phase dates will be determined as appropriate, with the understanding the state may roll back to previous phases based on public health data. A complete overview of the Four-Phase Approach has been posted.

General Business Guidance

The process requires businesses to comply with mandatory safety standards. The general guidance section of the website includes the following templates to help your company self-certify.

  • COVID-19 control plan template – Template that satisfies the written control plan requirement for self-certification
  • Compliance attestation poster – Poster that customer facing businesses are required to print, sign, and post in an area within the business premises that is visible to workers and visitors
  • Employer and Worker posters – Posters that businesses can print and display within the business premises to describe the rules for maintaining social distancing, hygiene protocols, and cleaning and disinfecting

Sector Specific Protocols

The reopening website also includes sector-specific protocols and best practices for for sectors eligible to open in Phase 1. There are multiple sectors that may be appropriate for trucking industry owners, managers and employees to review. This includes Safety Standards for Office Spaces. The materials provide useful guidance for trucking companies who have “office specific” locations. Materials include:

There are also sector-specific protocol sections for the following areas that may be applicable to your business:

FMCSA extends emergency declaration, HOS suspension through June 14

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hereby declares that a national emergency continues to exist that warrants extension of Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 issued on March 13, 2020, expanded on March 18, 2020, and extended and further expanded on April 8, 2020. This extension continues the exemption granted from Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) for the fifty States and the District of Columbia. This Declaration extends the exemption through June 14, 2020.

Emergency Declaration 2020-002 was issued following the declaration of a national emergency by the President pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 5191(b) in response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the public health emergency declared by the Health and Human Services Secretary, and the immediate risk COVID-19 presents to public health and welfare. Emergency Declaration 2020-002 is set to expire on May 15, 2020. Because the Presidentially declared COVID-19 national emergency remains in place, FMCSA is extending the Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 and associated regulatory relief in accordance with 49 CFR § 390.25. This extension of Emergency Declaration addresses national emergency conditions that create a need for immediate transportation of essential supplies, equipment and persons, and provides necessary relief from the FMCSRs for motor carriers and drivers engaged in the transport of essential supplies, equipment and persons.

By execution of this extension of Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002, motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 national emergency are granted emergency relief from Parts 390 through 399 of the FMCSRs, except as restricted herein. Direct assistance means transportation and other relief services provided by a motor carrier or its driver(s) incident to the immediate restoration of essential services (such as medical care) or essential supplies (such as food and fuel) related to COVID-19 during the emergency.

The extension of Emergency Declaration 2020-002 provides regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19, including transportation to meet immediate needs for:

  1. medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
  2. supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants;
  3. food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores;
  4. immediate precursor raw materials — such as paper, plastic or alcohol — that are required and to be used for the manufacture of items in categories (1), (2) or (3);
  5. fuel;
  6. liquefied gases to be used in refrigeration or cooling systems;
  7. equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19;
  8. persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes; and
  9. persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services, the supply of which may be affected by the COVID-19 response. Direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of this emergency declaration.

Emergency Declaration Restrictions & Limitations

By execution of this extension to Emergency Declaration 2020-002, motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the national emergency are not granted emergency relief from, and must continue to comply with, the following Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and conditions:

  1. 49 CFR § 392.2 related to the operation of a commercial motor vehicle in accordance with State laws and regulations, including compliance with applicable speed limits and other traffic restrictions.
  2. 49 CFR § 392.3 related to operation of a commercial motor vehicle while a driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the motor vehicle.
  3. Motor carriers shall not require or allow fatigued drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle. A driver who informs a carrier that he/she needs immediate rest shall be given at least ten consecutive hours before the driver is required to return to service.
  4. A motor carrier whose driver is involved in a crash while operating under this emergency declaration must report any recordable crash within 24 hours, by phone or in writing, to the FMCSA Division Office where the motor carrier is domiciled. The carrier must report the date, time, location, driver, vehicle identification, and brief description of the crash.
  5. Nothing in this Emergency Declaration shall be construed as an exemption from the controlled substance and alcohol uses and testing requirement (49 CFR Part 382), the commercial driver’s license requirements (49 CFR Part 383), the financial responsibility (insurance) requirements (49 CFR Part 387), the hazardous material regulations (49 CFR Parts 100-180), applicable size and weight requirements, or any other portion of the regulations not specifically exempted under 49 CFR § 390.23.
  6. Motor carriers or drivers currently subject to an out-of-service order are not eligible for the relief granted by this declaration until they have met the applicable conditions for its rescission and the order has been rescinded by FMCSA in writing.
  7. Direct assistance terminates when a driver or commercial motor vehicle is used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services that are not in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19 or when the motor carrier dispatches a driver or commercial motor vehicle to another location to begin operations in commerce. (49 CFR § 390.23(b)). Upon termination of direct assistance to emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19, the motor carrier and driver are subject to the requirements of 49 CFR Parts 390 through 399, except that a driver may return empty to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal work reporting location without complying with Parts 390 through 399. When a driver is moving from emergency relief efforts to normal operations a 10-hour break is required when the total time a driver operates conducting emergency relief efforts, or a combination of emergency relief and normal operations, equals 14 hours.

In accordance with 49 CFR § 390.25, this extension of Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 is effective immediately and shall remain in effect until 11:59 P.M. (ET), June 14, 2020, or until the revocation of the Presidentially declared COVID-19 national emergency, whichever is sooner.

Coronavirus-induced shipping rates too low for some

Truck drivers are struggling with a new challenge during the coronavirus crisis – low shipping rates – as demand in the sector declines.

According to data from freight and analytics firm DAT, rates as of April 30 had fallen to five-year lows for both the reefer and flatbed equipment categories. For dry van freight, the national average was just $1.64 per mile.

“The current spot rates are extremely low and carriers will not be able to sustain operations very long at these levels,” the report read.

From Fox Business: Experts warn rates are below levels where companies can run trucks profitably

IRS releases guidance on Employee Retention Credit

The Employee Retention Credit under the CARES Act encourages businesses to keep employees on their payroll. The refundable tax credit is 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19.

The IRS has released updated FAQs concerning the program that can be found at the IRS website.

Teleconference: ATA’s Chris Spear with COVID-19 recovery update

Chris Spear from ATA joins us at 4 p.m. ET on May 4 for a national perspective on COVID-19 and its impact on our industry.