Reopening Massachusetts – Trucking industry-related information

The plan to reopen the Massachusetts economy has been published on the 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.

MassDOT issues waiver regarding vehicle weight and permitting

This exemption, published on April 21 by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), applies to certain motor carriers engaged in operations necessary to respond to the emergency declared by the commonwealth’s governor on March 10.

MassDOT issued this waiver of the regulatory vehicle weight and permitting requirements for certain motor carriers and covered operations on MassDOT roadways, subject to the special conditions listed in the exemption.

A printable PDF version of the exemption is now available.

Webinar: Business strategies to recover from COVID-19 impacts

Tenax Strategies will be offering a valuable webinar on business strategies to help recover from COVID-19 impacts.

New data show COVID-19 impacts on the trucking industry

The following is a press release from the American Transportation Research Institute.

Atlanta, GA – Today, the American Transportation Research Institute is releasing new data that quantifies the continued impacts of COVID-19 business disruptions on the trucking industry.

ATRI’s latest analysis looked at truck activity across six states from February 9 through the most recent week ending April 18, by converting its real-time truck GPS dataset into a truck activity index.

“The GPS data we use is a valuable tool into what is going on in the economy and the trucking industry right now,” said ATRI President and COO Rebecca Brewster. “We knew from talking to drivers and carrier executives that there were significant impacts on operations as a result of COVID-19, but now, by analyzing this data we are able to put numbers and data to feelings and anecdotes.”

From early February into March, the data shows a spike in initial truck activity in the analyzed states – documenting the response to high consumer demand for items such as non-perishable food and paper products, as well as the much-needed emergency medical supplies.

The analysis further documents the impacts of the stay-at-home orders that shut down major segments of the economy, with a resulting decline in April trucking operations.

  • Of the six states analyzed, California had the earliest stay-at-home order issued on March 19. California also experienced the earliest upward spike in truck activity, occurring during the week of March 1. However, truck activity in California is now down 8.3 percent from early February.
  • In Florida, Illinois and New York, truck activity spiked the week of March 8 but is now down on average by over 10 percent from February 9.
  • In Pennsylvania and Washington, truck activity spiked during the week of March 15, but is now down by an average of nearly nine percent from February 9.

There are initial signs of a return to normal, however. In New York, one of the earliest states to experience high numbers of cases, truck activity started a positive uptick during the week of April 12.

“In these unprecedented times, we need to rely on science and facts, not anecdotes and speculation. This ATRI research is able to tell us in near-real-time what the pandemic is really doing to the trucking industry,” said American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello.

MassDOT notes increase in truck accidents

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) reached out to TAM asking us to remind drivers to continue a “Safety First” approach while traveling the roads in the commonwealth.

MassDOT noted an increase in the number of significant truck crashes even with the major drop in traffic volume during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, they are seeing an increase in rollover crashes near on and off-ramps. Vehicles carrying food and supplies make up most of the incidents.

As we all know, safety is beyond critical in our industry. Please take this opportunity to remind drivers to slow down and follow the posted speed limit warning signs on the ramps. This may be the first time drivers are taking off-ramps at speeds more than a crawl, and many drivers are new to the area and not familiar with our roads.

Remember, Safety First!

Trump delivers remarks celebrating America’s truckers

Yesterday, President Trump recognized and showed appreciation for the nation’s truckers and the trucking industry. American Trucking Association leaders and professional drivers met with the president and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on the White House lawn.

In part, Trump noted, “Truckers are playing a critical role in vanquishing the virus, and they will be just as important as we work to get our economic engine roaring.”

The president’s remarks, including statements from professional drivers, is captured in the video below.