UPDATED: The Trucking Industry Responds to COVID-19 Emergency
by Erika Nieman | March 16, 2020
The Trucking Industry Responds to COVID-19 Emergency
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again and again. Truckers are the lifeline of our economy. We are so proud to be able to work with and support so many carriers that provide essential goods and services to the country.
During the COVID-19 or coronavirus emergency, grocery stores are in constant need of replenishment and health care facilities need more supplies. Truckers are the solution to those needs and are working harder (and safer) than ever. For that, we are all so thankful!
News surrounding COVID-19 changes fast. We will try to keep you updated on major announcements concerning trucking and transportation.
Emergency Declaration Extension
The FMCSA has extended the emergency declaration through July 14. The announcement did however, scale back the types of operations covered by the exemption. Read more here.
FMCSA Extends Emergency Declaration for COVID-19 Trucking Responders
The FMCSA has once again, extended the emergency declaration relaxing hours of service rules for carriers providing direct relief assistance for COVID-19 response. The emergency declaration will stay in effect until June 14 according to the FMCSA.
The original order was put in place back in March, when stay-at-home orders began taking effect and was extended through May 15. You can read more about who and what the declaration covers here.
Protective Masks for Truckers Distributed
The FMCSA is helping distribute one million protective masks to commercial truck drivers. The agency, states, and various stakeholders have been working to get the masks, provided by FEMA, to drivers at rest areas, distribution centers, and inspection stations across the country.
For a list of upcoming dates and locations of mask distribution, click here.
Stay At Home Orders Begin to Expire
As many states begin reopening, experts are hoping to see many economic markers moving in the right direction. Several manufacturers are planning to begin shipping again and President Trump ordered meat-processing plants to remain open. While all this could increase the amount of freight and more accessible amenities on the road, questions still remain about health and safety precautions for workers.
As the pandemic continues, the Mid-America Association of State Transportation Officers is working to make life a little easier for truckers in the central states. Overweight freight restrictions, CDL regulations, and other requirements have been eased to ensure truckers can continue to deliver essential goods. Read more here.
Virginia Converts Closed Weigh Stations into Rest Areas for Commerical Drivers
At least 10 weigh stations in the state of Virginia are now temporary rest areas for truck drivers moving through the state. The state waived normal width and weight restrictions in response to COVID-19 until May 19, 2020, closing the operations at the weigh stations.
Read more here.
Congress Expected to Add Funds to Small Business Loan Program
A deal has been reached to add additional funds to the Paycheck Protection Program after it came to a halt last week when it ran out of money. A portion of the more than $300 billion will be set aside to help businesses who don’t have established relationships with big banks but use credit unions, community-based lenders, and smaller banks. These companies had a harder time accessing funds in the first round of applications.
Read more about the additional funding here.
Recently Expired TWIC Cards Temporarily Exempt
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, federal regulators say that TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credentials) cards that expired after March 1 will be accepted through July 31. The TSA, which issues TWIC cards, said about one third of enrollment facilities are closed at this time, making it difficult for drivers to renew their credentials.
Read more here.
Utah Requires Travel Declaration Form When Entering State
UPDATE: Commercial motor carriers are exempt from the travel health declaration established last week in Utah. Read more here.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert announced that drivers will need to fill out a health screening form after crossing the border into Utah. The form will be texted to drivers upon entering the state at various checkpoints. Read more about how the system will work, the questions asked, and what the checkpoints are here.
FMCSA Extends Emergency Declaration
The FMCSA has extended the emergency declaration that provides relief from hours-of-service regulations for carriers responding to the COVID-19 crisis until May 15. The previous declaration was set to expire April 12.
Read the FMCSA’s expanded emergency declaration here.
Washington Plans Additional Stimulus for Small Business
If passed, a new bill in Washington to expand the CARES Act would make $250 billion more available for small business loans. It would also give additional funding to hospitals and health centers battling COVID-19, and state and local governments to provide additional resources. The $500 billion emergency bill is working its way through Congress this week.
Heroes Fund Proposal
In another proposal, truck drivers and other essential workers could receive hazard pay bonuses. As Congress works on the next part of the COVID-19 relief packages, Democrats want to see direct relief to the men and women putting themselves at risk to fight the disease and keep essential services open and moving. Read more on the proposal here and here.
Small Business Loan Applications Pour In
Meanwhile, small businesses are applying for loans and assistance under the CARES Act. The loans are first come, first served, so businesses with fewer than 500 employees who meet the criteria are encouraged to apply quickly. The process has not been without issues though. High demand led to outages with the system and there is still some confusion in the application process. Learn about the types of assistance available from the Small Business Administration here.
IFTA Reporting Delays & Requirements Vary
With so many other rules, regulations, and taxes getting waivers or extensions, we wondered if IFTA filings would be extended as well. It appears that any delays or waivers are issued by jurisdiction, rather than a blanket ruling. When you go to file your IFTA Taxes for last quarter or are looking to apply for IFTA tags, check with your local jurisdiction (state or province) to see what the current situation is. You can find more information here about each jurisdiction.
News and information is still changing rapidly during the COVID-19 emergency. For truckers and transportation specialists, keeping up with what’s happening and more importantly what’s open, is challenging. We compiled a list of our favorite resources to stay informed during this crisis. Check out these resources for truckers during the COVID-19 emergency.
FMCSA Issues Statement On States & Localities Restricting Movement
The FMCSA issued a statement on state and local shelter in place and other restrictions on movement relating to COVID-19. Essentially, the statement says that states, counties, and cities issuing these shelter in place orders should ensure that persons involved in critical infrastructure, including the movement of freight and essential goods or persons, are still able to do so. The statement, which can be found here, is not legally binding and only meant to provide clarity to existing law.
Small Business Owners Guide to the CARES Act
After the CARES Act was officially passed, the questions shifted from “what’s in the CARES Act?” to “how do I get assistance through the CARES Act?” The Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship released a Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act to help answer some of the frequently asked questions.
Download a copy of the guide here.
Visit the US Small Business Administration website for more updated information daily.
Massive COVID-19 Stimulus Package Passes Senate
After marathon negotiations and a couple of political hiccups, the Senate passed a $2 Trillion Stimulus package on Wednesday. It is expected to pass in the House Friday morning. The package, dubbed the CARES Act, contains money set aside for small businesses and individuals affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
To read more about what’s in the CARES Act, check out this article.
Truck Parking Free at all 17 Sapp Bros. Locations Until Further Notice
Sapp Bros. Travel Centers announced yesterday they are waiving parking fees until further notice to help truckers during the COVID-19 crisis. Find their 17 locations here.
Apex Fuel Card Clients also receive fuel discounts at Sapp Bros. locations.
Safety Blitz Postponed
The annual CVSA International Roadcheck is being postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis. The blitz, which was scheduled for early May, was going to focus on driver requirements including Hours of Service (HOS) and Commercial Drivers License (CDL) requirements. Both HOS and CDL renewal requirements are temporarily modified to allow professional drivers to move essential goods as needed.
Read the announcement from the CVSA here.
FMCSA Grants Waiver for CDL and CLP Holders
Many CDL and CLP drivers are experiencing delays trying to renew their liscences due to closures at DMV offices or medical examiners. The FMCSA has extended the expiration date to June 30, 2020 so that those drivers can continue to work while waiting for the DMV to re-open or to complete medical exam requirements.
Read the FMCSA’s CDL Waiver here.
More States & Cities Ask Residents to Stay Home
Over the weekend, several more states and cities issued orders for residents to stay home to avoid the spread of COVID-19. With roughly 1 in 3 Americans ordered to stay home, and many businesses forced to close, Washington continues to debate a stimulus deal that failed over the weekend.
Meanwhile, transportation leaders are calling on the White House to ensure that state and local orders do not hinder the delivery of essential goods to citizens. Read the letter the American Trucking Associations, FedEx Corp., UPS Inc., and the U.S. Postal Service sent to the White House here.
US/Mexico Border Closes to “Non-Essential” Traffic
President Trump announced today, that the US and Mexico have come to an agreement to limit “non-essential” travel across the border. The closure is in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. At this time, cargo transportation should not be affected by the border closure. The continuation of the supply chain is considered essential.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Friday, “We want to make sure cargo continues, trade continues, healthcare workers continue to be able to traverse that border.”
Read more here.
California and New York Issue Stay-at-Home Orders, Critical Workforce Exempt
Yesterday, California Governor Newsome ordered residents to stay home except for essential trips out (i.e. for food, medical care, etc.). They cited guidance the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued to exempt the “critical workforce” which includes trucking and transportation workers.
Today, New York Governor Cuomo followed suit, saying 100% of the workforce must stay home, excluding essential services.
Read more about California’s stay-at-home order here.
Read more about New York’s new mandates here.
Read the guidance from DHS about the critical sectors and workforce here.
Update 3/19/2020: 2 Container Terminals Closed in Port of Houston
Operations are suspended at the Barbours Cut and Bayport container terminals in Houston due to a positive COVID-19 test of someone who worked at both terminals. The terminals are closed while an investigation is happening. The Port Authority says “The Houston Ship Channel and the 200-plus private terminals that comprise the greater Port of Houston are also still operating.”
FMCSA Issues Expanded Emergency Declaration
The FMCSA announced an expansion of the HOS waiver for CMVs providing relief during the COVID-19 crisis. This includes, but is not limited to, food, fuel, medical supplies, essential materials and persons needed to combat this emergency.
US/Canada Border Closes to “Non-Essential” Traffic
President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau announced the US/Canadian border will be closed to non-essential traffic. President Trump tweeted that the move would not affect trade, so truckers hauling freight and supplies should be allowed to pass. Trudeau also stated, “Our governments recognize that we preserve supply chains between both countries”.
“These supply chains ensure that food, fuel and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border. Supply chains including trucking will not be affected by this new measure.”
You can read more here.
TA and Petro Stopping Centers Issue COVID-19 Response Statement to Trucking Industry
TA and Petro Stopping Centers issued a statement today addressing concerns of fuel and rest stop availability. They assured the trucking and transportation industry that all fuel lanes are open and drivers can still use the showers. However, various changes are being made in full-service and quick-service restaurants based on local and state guidelines.
Read the full statement here.
Truck Parking Update
The ATA, Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, and other groups have been working to ensure truck parking areas remain open. The Pennsylvania DOT has reopened 13 truck parking locations and added portable toilets and is evaluating other locations. Indoor facilities remain closed due to no staff available to clean them.
On 3/19/2020, the PA Turnpike Commission said they will reopen all 17 of its plazas Friday, March 20 at 7 am. Restrooms will be open 24 hours a day.
Read more from the Philadelphia Inquirer here.
Read the letter the ATA sent to the Trump Administration here.
Pennsylvania shuts down rest stops
The state of Pennsylvania has closed 35 highway rest stops, including parking access for drivers. The closures went into effect at 12:01 am March 17. The state says they are evaluating the situation.
Read more here.
The Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association is working with the state to find a solution for drivers.
US Department of Transportation Issues National Emergency Declaration
Last week, when President Trump declared a national state of emergency, that allowed the FMCSA to relax the Hours of Service (HOS) rules nationwide for carriers involved in coronavirus related relief efforts. The declaration will help drivers get critical goods to the affected areas faster.
There are still some rules to keep in mind. The declaration says that once a driver has completed his or her delivery, they must take 10 hours off-duty if they are transporting property, and 8 hours off-duty if they transport passengers. Read more about the emergency HOS rules on the FMCSA website, and from Transport Topics.
Stay Safe and Healthy
Truckers don’t have the option to work from home or take many of the precautions so many others can. They can practice social distancing, meaning staying more than 6 feet away from others, staying out of crowded areas, and increasing the frequency of handwashing and sanitizing. Follow the CDC and other health organization guidelines.
How Apex is Responding
At Apex, we are taking precautions to keep ourselves healthy and safe so we can continue serving our clients in this time of need. Clients can continue to call and email as needed. We are operating normally to help you stay running. Our fuel card is still running and providing you fuel discounts when you need it most.
The bottom line in all of this is to stay healthy and safe. If you need to get paid faster to keep your trucks running, our team is working, give us a call at 855-369-2739 or apply today to get started.