EMA Opposes Proposed FMCSA Rule Making That Restrict State Hours Of Service Waivers
Last Monday, the Energy Marketers of America (EMA) submitted comments regarding the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposed rule that would severely limit the authority of state governors to waive federal motor carrier safety hours of service (HOS) regulations during a declared state of emergency.
The proposed rule would limit both the scope of FMCSA regulations subject to a state issued waiver and the duration of the waiver itself.
Under current federal regulations, when a president, governor, or the FMCSA issues a declaration of emergency, a 30-day exemption from FMCSA regulations is automatically created for drivers providing direct assistance to state and local emergency relief efforts.
Those sections include driver: hours of service; medical qualifications including medical exams; CDL licensure and renewal; vehicle inspections, repair and maintenance and training.
Under the proposed rule, the FMCSA is seeking to narrow the automatic applicability of emergency exemptions to driver hours-of-service only. Moreover, the FMCSA is proposing to reduce the duration of emergency waivers issued by state governors from 30 days to just 5 days.
In its comments, EMA opposed the reduction of the automatic waiver from 30 days to 5 days for state declarations because it may not provide sufficient time for full recovery from a declared emergency.
In the fuel marketing industry, disaster recovery time typically takes 2 to 3 times longer than the duration of the disaster itself. When fuel supply is disrupted, the HOS waiver is essential to restore the flow of finished fuel products to downstream users.
The HOS waiver increases the number of loads that can be delivered, and the distance traveled to reach far off supply during emergency declarations.
In addition, when a terminal or pipeline outage occurs, resulting in a supply disruption, normal inventories of finished fuel products take time to work their way back through the distribution chain to storage terminals.
Return to normal inventories could take up to three weeks after the emergency period is over.
Unfortunately, a shorter 5-day state waiver period could also encourage consumer fuel hoarding and long lines at the pump, further limiting supply.
EMA expressed the utmost importance of maintaining the current 30-day automatic waiver period for state declared emergencies to guarantee supply during and after a declared emergency.