(Tom Flaten – 10/18/2022)

With October 15th in the rearview mirror, commercial motor carriers can finally say goodbye to the FMCSA COVID-19 hours-of-service emergency declaration issued on April 8, 2020. The hours-of-service exemption had been extended multiple times, with the latest being in August (for 45 days, instead of the usual 90-day extension). There will be no more extensions, so I guess COVID-19 is over, right?

The FMCSA COVID-19 HOS exemptions provided regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts related to COVID-19 and (was) limited to transportation of (1) livestock and livestock feed; (2) medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19; (3) 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; and (4) food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores. As of October 15th, even the COVID -19 web page has been archived by FMCSA. So, COVID-19 is over, right?

With maskless air travel back in full swing, social distancing reminders remain – fading floor decals, little-noticed signs in business establishments – with record crowds at the ballpark. Yet, we still regularly encounter people every day that remains masked up. Had they been in close contact with a COVID-19 case? (I’ve been there.) Are they immuno-compromised? Are they not vaccinated – boosted? Are they simply going for maximum protection? So – COVID-19 is over, right?

I checked the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker66 web page and it appears COVID-19 has not left the U.S. entirely, despite an increasingly fewer number of new cases being reported. And even if there were zero (0) case reported over 3 consecutive months, everyone has their personal and collective COVID-19 experience. As of this writing, since January 21, 2020 – 1,059,806 people in the U.S. have lost their lives to COVID-19. There have been nearly 100 million new cases reported. That’s 1/3 of the U.S. population!

As much as we’d like COVID-19 to “be over”, the nation is still coming to grips with the full economic impact, exacerbated by ripple effects from the supply chain disruption. With a supply and demand-based economy, and both sides of that equation knocked off kilter, COVID-19 is not exactly “over” yet. On October 25th, 2022, Food Shippers of America & FTR presented; Q4 2022 Food Industry Economic and Transportation Update

The pandemic has changed the economy, supply chains, and demand fundamentals. This session put the current supply chain constraints in context and explored whether this is a permanent shift due to the pandemic or if it is temporary. Also, as services start to reemerge, this may once again change the underlying future demand for food which could impact your business. View replay of FTR Webinar66

We’re thankful for things finally getting back to somewhat of a new-normal. Like working from home, while finally being able to attend business conferences in person again. We’re thankful for the fall season, knowing that the holiday season is not far away. All these things give us hope as we look in the rearview mirror and catch another glimpse of January 2020 growing dimmer, with the FMCSA HOS Emergency Declaration’s last extension lapsed. At least we can say – that part of COVID-19 is finally over.