Border congestion feared as vaccination requirements change in January

From Transport Topics.

The flow of freight between the United States and its neighbors Canada and Mexico could slow beginning in January, as all three countries adopt more stringent COVID-19 vaccine requirements for cross-border truck traffic.

“All inbound foreign national travelers seeking to enter the United States via land points of entry or ferry terminals — whether for essential or nonessential reasons — must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination,” said a bulletin from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. While the Nov. 23 announcement said only that the restrictions would be adopted in January, it’s expected they’ll take effect Jan. 22.

The DHS rule applies to non-U.S. citizens crossing into the country.

The Canadian Ministry of Health’s new regulations, set to take effect Jan. 15, state that certain groups of travelers — among them essential providers such as truck drivers — cannot enter Canada unless they have been fully vaccinated. This applies to U.S. drivers entering the country, a group that previously had been exempt from vaccination requirements.

Mexico’s rule, also set to take effect Jan. 15, states, “all inbound non-immigrant foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land ports of entry or ferry terminals – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination.” Here again, U.S. drivers are included.

American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello expressed trepidation about how the flow of freight into and out of the three countries could be affected

“I am concerned about all of this, and what we need is more time,” Costello told Transport Topics. “It’s not like we are anti-vaccine, but the reality is a lot of these drivers are not vaccinated, and we already have supply chain problems. Our number one export market for U.S. goods is Canada. I don’t want to be alarmist, but this is significant.”

Costello said Canadian officials enacted their tighter vaccine requirements after the U.S. decision.

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.

FMCSA extends HOS waiver through February amid COVID-19 concerns

From Transport Topics.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration extended regulatory waivers related to truckers’ allowable work time, citing public health concerns.

The waiver associated with commercial drivers’ maximum driving time for property-carrying vehicles was extended through Feb. 28.

FMCSA explained, “although the number of COVID-19 cases began to decline in the U.S. following widespread introduction of vaccinations, persistent issues arising out of COVID-19 continue to affect the U.S. including impacts on supply chains and the need to ensure capacity to respond to variants and potential rises in infections.”

“Therefore, a continued exemption is needed to support direct emergency assistance for some supply chains,” FMCSA stated in announcing the extension to the regulatory waiver, which took effect Dec. 1. “This extension of the modified emergency declaration addresses national emergency conditions that create a need for immediate transportation of essential supplies and provides necessary relief from the [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations] for motor carriers and drivers.”

Specifically, the hours-of-service waiver is applicable to commercial drivers and carriers tasked with directly providing relief services related to essential services, medical care and supplies that respond to COVID-19.

According to FMCSA, the waiver is limited to the transportation of livestock, as well as livestock feed, and medical supplies for the treatment of COVID-19.

It also is limited to vaccines, ancillary supplies and kits for the administration of vaccines, and supplies and equipment deemed necessary for public safety. Additionally, it pertains to masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants. It also pertains to food, certain paper products, emergency restocking of distribution hubs, and gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and ethyl alcohol.

See the complete article online at Transport Topics.

FMCSA logo

FMCSA extends Emergency Declaration through May 31

From Transport Topics.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has again extended its emergency declaration offering regulatory relief to truckers involved in coronavirus-related assistance efforts.

The declaration, which has been extended to May 31, applies to commercial motor vehicle drivers providing direct assistance in support of emergency efforts related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This extension of the expanded modified emergency declaration addresses national emergency conditions that create a need for immediate transportation of essential supplies and provides necessary relief from the [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations] for motor carriers and drivers,” FMCSA’s notice states.

Like its previous iterations, the declaration applies to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It continues the exemption from Parts 390-399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which cover hours of service, parts and accessories needed for safe operation, and longer combination vehicles.

According to FMCSA’s notice, direct assistance does not include routine commercial deliveries, including mixed loads “with a nominal quantity of qualifying emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of the emergency declaration.”

See the complete article from Transport Topics online.

Facing filling order books, truck OEMs staring down supply chain shortages and concerns

From Commercial Carrier Journal.

A global shortage of semiconductor chips has thrown vehicle production plans for some of the world’s largest automakers into question.

Ford and GM are among the major players to already announce production limitations that could last into the spring. The chip shortage was spurred by COVID-related vehicle assembly plant shutdowns. With production lines stopped, semiconductor manufacturers pivoted capacity to consumer electronics – sales of which were surging on stay-at-home orders and prodded by a new remote workforce.

Semiconductor chips require assembly lead times as long as several weeks – if not months – and the demand for new vehicles was not expected to be so strong coming out of a pandemic-depressed economy.

About 217,000 Class 8 trucks were ordered in 2020, and forecasts call for between 250,000 to 280,000 orders this year.

“We feel that we’re on the higher end of that,” said Kenworth General Manager Kevin Baney. “Fleet activity is up, strong vocational market and used truck prices are increasing. Everything is really coming together. We really feel like ’21 is going to be a robust year.”

Semiconductor availability thus far hasn’t impacted heavy truck builds to the extent it has automotive builds, but FTR Vice President of Commercial Vehicles Don Ake noted “the computer chip shortage is limiting production.”

Daimler Trucks North America said in a statement provided to CCJ that the shortage of chips “is a situation we continue to monitor very closely, but [has had] no direct impact to our production plan to-date.”

See the complete article from CCJ online.

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US House Transportation Panel delves into COVID concerns

From Transport Topics.

The new year means a new session of Congress and the opportunity to achieve reforms across the federal landscape.

To do so, lawmakers point to the need to push ahead on a resolution to the coronavirus pandemic. This week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee scheduled a hearing to assess the pandemic’s impact on the country’s mobility networks, and potential solutions to ongoing problems.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the panel’s chairman, explained he intends to examine gaps in safety practices pertaining to passengers and the transportation workforce during the national health crisis.

“As our nation mourns the loss of more than 430,000 Americans to COVID-19, transportation workers around the country continue to show up for work to drive buses and trains, ensure the safety of passengers on airplanes, move freight by truck, ship, rail and air, and repair roads and bridges — all to keep our communities and economy moving,” DeFazio said in a statement to Transport Topics. “That includes truck drivers, who are vital to keeping grocery stores stocked with supplies and transporting personal protective equipment, or PPE, and other medical equipment, including life-saving vaccines, throughout the country during the pandemic.”

See the complete article from Transport Topics online.

Panel recommends vaccinations for everyone over 65-years-old

From CT News Junkie.

A Connecticut advisory panel added everyone over the age of 65 and any adult with one federally-defined medical condition to its guidelines for the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout Tuesday.

As the allocations subcommittee of the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group kicked off its virtual meeting, some members were distracted by an “elephant in the room.” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was in the process of shifting federal guidelines for the next phase of the vaccine rollout. The Trump administration was backing a plan to open up the next round of vaccinations to people 65 or older and people with comorbidities defined by the Centers for Disease Control.

By the end of the hour-long meeting, the state panel adopted similar recommendations, adding the two large new populations to the group’s existing guidelines, which already included residents of congregate settings like prisons and frontline workers. Earlier this month, the advisory panel estimated Phase 1b included more than 800,000 people. One member estimated Tuesday’s addition adds another 720,000 residents to that group.

See the complete article from CT News Junkie online.

FMCSA logo

FMCSA extends CDL, CLP & Med Card Waiver through Feb. 28

Summary by American Trucking Associations (ATA).

This waiver becomes effective on January 1, 2021 and expires on February 28, 2021. Please read the specific provisions below, as the dates and applicability vary.

For CDL/CLP Drivers, the waiver will:

  • Waive until February 28, 2021, the maximum period of CDL validity for CDLs due for renewal on or after March 1, 2020;
  • Waive until February 28, 2021, the maximum period of CLP validity for CLPs that are due for renewal on or after March 1, 2020, without requiring the CLP holders to retake the general and endorsement knowledge tests;
  • Waive until February 28, 2021, the requirement that CLP holders wait 14 days to take the CDL skills test;

Medical Requirements for CDL/CLP and non-CDL drivers:

  • This notice will waive, until February 28, 2021 the requirement that CDL holders, CLP holders, and non-CDL drivers have a medical examination and certification, provided that they have proof of a valid medical certification and any required medical variance that were issued for a period of 90 days or longer and that expired on or after September 1, 2020.
  • This notice will also waive the requirement that, in order to maintain the medical certification status of “certified,” CDL or CLP holders provide the SDLA with an original or copy of a subsequently issued medical examiner’s certificate and any required medical variance, provided that they have proof of a valid medical certification or medical variance that expired on or after September 1, 2020.

For State Driver License Agencies (SDLA):

  • This notice waives, until February 28, 2021 the requirement that the SDLA change the CDL or CLP holder’s medical certification status to “not certified” upon the expiration of the medical examiner’s certificate or medical variance, provided that they have proof of a valid medical certification or medical variance that expired on or after September 1, 2020. Additionally, the notice waives certain requirements with regards to SDLAs downgrading a drivers CDL or CLP upon expiration of the medical examiner’s certificate or medical variance, provided the SDLAs have proof of a valid medical certification or medical variance that expired on or after September 1, 2020.

The full waiver notice can be found here. Carriers and drivers should review this waiver to ensure all terms, conditions, and restrictions are met.

Trucks carry first doses of COVID-19 vaccine to hospitals

From Transport Topics.

As the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine begin to ship, trucking experts on the ground level of the distribution effort said the logistical elements are in place for a successful rollout of an estimated 50 million doses of the vaccine between now and the end of January.

“We have dedicated and hardworking people around the world who have been trained to store, handle, transport and deliver vaccines,” UPS Inc. CEO Carol Tomé said. “We’re pleased to support our health care partners with smart, efficient logistics for these vaccines that will protect communities and save lives.”

Operation Warp Speed is the federal joint effort between government and private industry to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. The initial distribution phase began at the Kalamazoo, Mich., Pfizer plant, where the vaccine — co-developed by pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and BioNTech SE — was moved by truck and air to UPS and FedEx distribution hubs and then on to 636 locations across the country. Atlanta-based UPS has set up a special 24/7 command center at its Worldport aviation hub in Louisville, Ky.

See the complete article from Transport Topics online.

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Negotiators near agreement on long-delayed COVID-19 aid bill

From Transport Topics.

Top congressional leaders are closing in on an agreement on a long-delayed COVID-19 relief package, hoping to seal a deal as early as Dec. 16 that would extend aid to individuals and businesses and help ship coronavirus vaccines to millions.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a coauthor of a $908 billion bipartisan package, said leadership negotiators are nearing an agreement that would extend direct payments of $500-$600 to most Americans but would deny Democratic negotiators long-sought aid to state and local governments.

“We made major headway toward hammering out a bipartisan relief package,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).

The negotiators are closing in on an agreement of around $900 billion, which would include a new round of stimulus checks, enhanced federal unemployment insurance benefits, and other avenues for delivering aid to states, localities, territories and tribes, according to two people familiar with the talks and authorized to characterize them. Their statement said that a GOP-sought provision shielding businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits would be dropped.

See the complete article from Transport Topics online.

UPS says it can handle vaccine rollout, holiday parcel rush

From Transport Topics.

UPS Inc. said it has the capacity to handle the rollout of coronavirus vaccines and an unprecedented holiday package rush this month after investments in automation, tracking technology and dry-ice production.

The courier is the primary end-to-end distributor for Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine, as well as for kits to prepare the shots and dry ice shipments to keep the inoculations at extremely cold temperatures, UPS sales chief Kate Gutmann said in an interview. The vaccine and kits will have tracking devices that allow shipments to be monitored at all times.

“We’re planning enough capacity on the ground and in the air to make sure that there is no limit around the UPS side,” Gutmann said.

The initial vaccine shipments will coincide with the busiest shipping weeks of an extraordinary peak season in which virus-averse consumers are going online to order a record deluge of goods for home delivery. U.S. approval of the Pfizer vaccine is expected soon, now that the Food and Drug Administration has published a report saying there are no safety concerns to prevent its authorization.

See the complete article from Transport Topics online.