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COVID-19: Maryland and Virginia Provide Exemptions to Regulations

Maryland and Virginia have issued emergency orders that require most people to stay at home or otherwise prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people and shut down businesses deemed non-essential in an effort to mitigate and contain the spread of COVID-19.  These orders, however, exempt businesses deemed essential by Maryland and Virginia.  Businesses deemed essential include transportation and logistics companies as these companies are delivering food supplies and equipment necessary for everyday life.

Maryland

On March 18, 2020, Governor Larry Hogan and the State of Maryland issued an Order that waived all or part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations while transporting supplies and equipment to assist with emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19.  The Maryland Department of Transportation (“MDOT”) and Maryland Department of Health, under the Order and until the health emergency is rescinded, amended, or revised, are required to waive maximum hours of service and some height and weight restrictions, for drivers while transporting equipment and supplies directly related to the COVID-19 state of emergency and catastrophic health emergency.  The list of supplies or equipment related to the response to the COVID-19 state of emergency include medicine, medical equipment, food supplies including feed for livestock, water, and materials for construction of temporary housing.  Pursuant to this Order, any motor vehicle transporting essential supplies or equipment are “allowed a 15% tolerance above any weight limit imposed by statue.”

Maryland has instituted quarantine guidelines for any commercial driver involved in commercial transportation originating or transiting through New York City or the surrounding metro area in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut after March 20, 2020.  Under Maryland’s guidelines, if a commercial driver went straight through or stopped only for gas and had no contact with other people, the driver does not need to quarantine.  However, a driver that spends more than 3 minutes in close contact is recommended to avoid working for 14 days and to isolate themselves.  

In addition, Maryland, in response to the COVID-19 emergency, has closed all its MDOT MVA branch offices, the Customer Service Center, and Vehicle Emissions stations.  All Maryland vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses, identification cards, business licenses, and permits will remain valid and otherwise not expire under 30 days after Maryland lifts the state of emergency.  

Virginia

On March 19, 2020, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Transportation issued an order that provides a certain waiver for carriers transporting essential emergency relief supplies.  Virginia’s Order provides exemptions to motor carriers or commercial with respect to overweight, over width, registration, license, or hours of service to all carriers transporting essential relief supplies to, through and from any area of Virginia.  Essential relief supplies under the Order includes: 

  • Water; or 
  • Food; or 
  • Heating Oil; or 
  • Motor fuels or propane; or  
  • Agricultural products; or
  • Agricultural supplies; or
  • Livestock and poultry (including feed for same); or
  • Forest products; or
  • Providing restoration of utilities; or 
  • Removal of waste to, through, or from any area of Virginia in order to support the COVID-19 response and recovery.

Virginia’s weight limit exemptions are only valid interstate highways while an associated federal emergency declaration is in effect.  The current federal emergency declaration is effective through May 19, 2020.  Virginia’s weight limit exemptions are also limited and not valid on bridges or structures with a restricted weight posted and is limited to the duration of providing direct emergency relief assistance.  Tractor trailers may be over the width load limit by a maximum of 12 feet and over the height load by a maximum of 14 feet and must continue to follow Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles hauling permit and safety guidelines.  The following maximum weight restrictions are as follows:

  • Max gross vehicle weight for a 3 axle truck is 60,000 pounds;
  • Max gross vehicle weight for a 4 axle truck is 70,000 pounds;
  • Max gross vehicle weight for a 5+ axle truck is 90,000 pounds;
  • Max gross vehicle weight for a 6+ axle truck is 100,000 pounds;
  • The single axle weight on any vehicle must not exceed 24,000 pounds; and
  • The tandem axle weight on any vehicle must not exceed 44,000 pounds.

Virginia has also extended the expiration date of all Commercial Driver Licenses and Medical Examiner Certificates through at least June 30, 2020.

FMCSA

The Orders of Maryland and Virginia incorporate and adopt the relief provided by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Emergency Declaration No. 2020-002 (“FMSCSA 2020-002”).  Under FMCSA 2020-002, motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance and support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 have been granted relief from Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.  Transportation and delivery of the following items qualifies for the exemption:

  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19;
  • 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;
  • Food for emergency restocking of stores;
  • Equipment, supplies and persons necessary to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine, and isolation facilities related to COVID-19;
  • Persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes; and
  • Persons necessary to provide other medical or emergency services

Routine commercial deliveries or transportation of mixed loads that include essential supplies that are not being transported in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19 are not exempted from Parts 390 through 399.  Worth noting is that a driver may return empty to the motor carrier’s terminal after delivering essential items without complying with Parts 390 through 399.   

The Emergency Order states explicitly that the Order in no way provides an exemption from the following regulations:

  • 49 CFR 382 – controlled substances and alcohol use and testing requirements;
  • 49 CFR 383 – commercial driver’s license requirements;
  • 49 CFR 387 – financial responsibility (insurance) requirements;
  • 49 CFR Parts 100-180 – hazardous material regulations; as well as
  • Applicable size and weight requirements.

Also, the relief granted by this Order does not apply to any motor carrier or driver subject to an out-of-service-order.  To be eligible, such motor carriers or drivers must have the out-of-service-order rescinded by FMCSA.

Conclusion

The response to the ongoing COVID-19 health emergency is a fluid situation.  The Orders of Maryland and Virginia as they related to motor carriers and commercial drivers may need to extended in length or revised with respect to applicability as mitigation and containment of the COVID-19 is an ongoing emergency.  Motor carriers should routinely check with the FMCSA website and the department of transportation of any state in which a motor carrier travels to ensure compliance with the changing regulations. 

If you have questions about this article, or about transportation during the COVID-19 situation in general, please contact Chad Murchison (cmurchison@setlifflaw.com) at 804-377-1270 or Steve Setliff (ssetliff@setlifflaw.com) at 804-377-1261.

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