The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on Wednesday announced the extension and modification of its Hours of Service emergency declaration, which was set to expire this Friday, Aug. 14, but will now provide regulatory relief until Sept. 14.
The updated and extended waiver allows for commercial drivers transporting “food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores” to be eligible for hours of service relief.
The Arlington, Va.-based National Grocers Association, the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry, applauded the move.
Since March 2020, FMCSA, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has provided hours-of-service flexibility for commercial drivers transporting certain categories of eligible items to help aid critical supply chain pressures and help facilitate the COVID-19 pandemic response. The agency’s June waiver extension excluded food and grocery, so NGA and its member wholesalers sent a letter to FCMSA in July highlighting how continued grocery supply chain challenges merit regulatory relief. NGA and its member wholesalers also participated on a call with the agency last week to provide perspective on many of the ongoing supply chain pressures and made the case for further waiver flexibility.
In its letter to FCMSA, NGA noted that “retail grocery has yet to recover from the supply shortages that were all too common in the early months of COVID-19. Coupled with low product availability — many manufacturers are operating at only 60% to 80% fill rates — demand on trucking for grocery delivery is at an all-time high. Many of our companies are experiencing an increase of 15% to 20% in outbound load traffic, which has placed added pressure on an already problematic shortage of truck drivers.”
“NGA has advocated on behalf of our retail and wholesale members to make sure that FMCSA understands that some obstacles remain due to COVID-19 impacts on the grocery supply chain,” said NGA president and CEO Greg Ferrara. “Independents across the country are working night and day to keep their stores restocked, and we appreciate FMCSA heeding our concerns and providing some relief.”
In its modified version of the emergency declaration, the FMCSA stated, “This extension continues the relief granted in Emergency Declaration 2020-002 as modified on June 15, 2020 except that because of current conditions, FMCSA is reinstating emergency relief for emergency restocking of food, paper products and other groceries at distribution centers or stores.”
“Independent grocery wholesalers are the backbone of our supply chain, and their truckers are doing yeoman’s work making sure food is delivered to retail stores,” said Robert Yeakel, NGA director of government relations. “We thank FMCSA for responding to the issues that we’ve raised and providing our wholesalers and independent grocers everywhere with more flexibility to get food onto store shelves.”
The extension of Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 is effective at midnight Aug.15, 2020, and will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. ET, Sept. 14, 2020, or until the revocation of the Presidentially declared COVID-19 national emergency, whichever is sooner.
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