Federal officials have relaxed hauling rules to ensure food, fuel, medical supplies and other necessities keep moving during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The March 18 declaration is the first time the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued this type of nationwide relief.
The regulatory relief applies to commercial motor vehicles providing “direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs.”
That includes emergency restocking of grocery stores, where stockpiling consumers have left bare the shelves of food and toilet paper, as well as the delivery of medical supplies needed to test for and treat the coronavirus, supplies and people needed to create temporary quarantine housing, medical personnel, and raw materials required to manufacture essential items.
The emergency order does not cover routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads with a nominal amount of emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of the declaration.
In the interest of safety, once a driver has completed the delivery, the hauler must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and 8 hours if transporting passengers.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has also responded to truckers’ safety concerns about the state’s emergency measures.
As part of the state’s strategy to slow the virus’ spread, all highway rest areas were closed earlier in the week.
But the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said truck drivers, whose services are understood to be valuable during the crisis, had lost places they needed to rest.
“It creates a scenario in which their own personal safety seems less important than their productivity,” the organization said.
PennDOT said it would open 13 of its 30 rest stops starting Thursday, March 19. Indoor facilities will remain closed because of the staffing and sanitizing needs, but portable toilets will be available and cleaned once a day.
The following rest stops reopen to truckers today:
Interstate 79: Crawford County northbound/southbound
Interstate 79: Allegheny northbound only
Interstate 80: Venango County eastbound/westbound
Interstate 80: Centre County eastbound/westbound
Interstate 80: Montour County eastbound/westbound
Interstate 81: Luzerne County northbound/southbound
Interstate 81: Cumberland County northbound/southbound
Pennsylvania had previously confirmed that a wide range of agricultural businesses, including transportation for food, farm products and feed, were not among the businesses the governor was urging to close temporarily.