Producers are breathing a sigh of relief after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration extended a waiver from its Hours of Service regulation to certain commercial truck drivers.

Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, FMCSA initially granted the waiver in spring 2020. The latest extension will run through Feb. 28, 2022. The waiver “provides regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19,” the extension says.

The HOS rule limits truckers to 11 hours of driving time and 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time in any 24-hour period and requires prescribed rest periods.

“We’re pleased the FMCSA recognized the challenges COVID still presents and the problems it has created, including supply chain issues, for the livestock industry and acted accordingly,” National Pork Producers Council President Jen Sorenson said. Extending the waiver “ensures that livestock truckers can get hogs to market safely and efficiently. Likewise, truckers hauling livestock feed can get those essential supplies to farms.”

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NPPC also noted that the infrastructure bill recently signed into law “expanded the miles agricultural truckers can drive without the HOS restrictions. Drivers hauling livestock already were exempt from the HOS rule for the first 150 air miles of their runs. Now they also will be exempt from HOS rules for the final 150 air miles from their final destination, providing additional flexibility to ensure drivers can safely complete their deliveries while protecting other drivers and ensuring the welfare of the animals in their care.”

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