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U.S. Department of Transportation is Preparing the Way for Swift COVID-19 Vaccine Transport

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (Department) today announced that all of its necessary regulatory measures have been taken for the safe, rapid transportation of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine by land and air. With the unprecedented pace of vaccine development through Operation Warp Speed, the Department has made preparations to enable the immediate mass shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“The Department has laid the groundwork for the safe transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine and is proud to support this historic endeavor,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. 

Over the last several weeks Department of Transportation agencies and Operation Warp Speed officials have been coordinating with the private sector companies that will carry the vaccines from manufacturing facilities to the distribution centers and inoculation points. The Department has established the appropriate safety requirements for all potential hazards involved in shipping the vaccine, including standards for dry ice and lithium batteries.   

At the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Department worked proactively with other U.S. government agencies, air carriers, and aviation stakeholders to ensure the continued transport of critical medical supplies and personnel in support of Project Air Bridge. The Department also issued emergency regulatory relief for flight crews and other aviation entities to support uninterrupted flight operations and respond to increased air cargo demand.

Additionally, the Department has continued to support critical supply chain networks by granting a nationwide exemption to hours-of-service regulations for trucking companies and commercial drivers providing direct emergency assistance.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s long-standing Emergency Declaration was also recently extended to support emergency transportation of vaccines and medical supplies and equipment related to the prevention of COVID-19.  

In October, the “FAA COVID-19 Vaccine Air Transport Team” was established as part of the Department’s effort to support the safe and expedited transportation and distribution of approved COVID-19 vaccines, including providing support to Operation Warp Speed. Key to this effort has been coordination with the Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials. 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Department has played an active role in supporting the Administration’s efforts to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus, and ensure continuation of critical infrastructure support and relief for the American people. Response measures implemented by the Department to date have included direct stakeholder outreach and guidance, expanded Federal assistance, and expedited regulatory relief.