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Are towers included in the COVID-19 hours of service relief?

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This question has been popping up all over social media since the FMCSA declared a nationwide suspension of the hours of service regulations for truckers providing relief related to the COVID-19 outbreak. There has been some bad, misleading and downright incorrect information published all across social media since then. See below for my professional opinion on this subject as well as links to the actual text of the relief announced by the FMCSA.


In short, I do not believe towers are included in the relief from hours of service, even when towing a truck that was legally included. The only exception would be if the tower were providing direct assistance themselves by transporting material or supplies used for a quarantine facility, temporary health care project or maybe a generator to a retail store or emergency supply stock pile.


Even then, there is still a duty to not operate dangerously or in a fatigued condition, and should an incident occur (crash, injury or fatality) you can bet that the prosecutor would attempt to prove, most likely successfully, that the hours of service relief was not applicable or the operator failed to properly rest. Simply put, it is not worth trying to use the relief from hours of service as it is vague at best as to what is qualified use.




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From my perspective, the narrative written in this declaration is vague and non-specific. There is no wording to side-step towing operations when towers aren't involved, or most likely, will not be involved in transporting goods, materials and supplies in the fight against COVID-19. The declaration clearly reads, "Because of the decisive leadership of President Trump and Secretary Chao, this declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently." If a tow company were towing a disabled commercial vehicle that broke down delivering supplies and good to fight the virus, a consideration could be made at that time .... but, even that's a stretch based on FMCSA's guidelines dated March 13, 2020. Otherwise, it's business as usual.  


Note:  A southern California tow truck driver recently received an hours of service citiation (at the scales) for being more than 100-miles beyond his facility and while driving a light-duty wrecker. Like everything else that's caused confusion and mis-quotes, I personally believe that towers won't be allowed any special consideration and log-book operations should be recorded in the usual manner.     R.

Randall C. Resch

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