FMCSA Proposes New Emergency Declaration Restrictions Limiting Scope, Duration Of Regulatory Waivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is proposing to significantly narrow the scope of regulatory exemptions available to CDL drivers during a declared emergency as well as the length of time those regulations are waived.

The proposed rule is important to energy marketers because it could hinder the ability to adequately maintain fuel supply during declared emergencies while imposing new hours of service (HOS) related record keeping and reporting requirements.

If adopted, the FMCSA proposed rule would:

— Restrict the automatic 30-day waiver period to presidential emergency declarations only.

— Reduce the automatic waiver period for emergency declarations made by a governor or the FMCSA from 30-days to just 5 days.

— Limit the regulatory exemptions in emergency waivers to driver HOS only under 49 CFR 395.3 rather than the current practice of waiving all regulations contained in sections 49 CFR 390 to 399. Among the major regulations contained in 390 to 399 are those safety rules relating to hours of service, safe driving practices, drug and alcohol testing, vehicle maintenance and inspection, and general driver qualifications.

— Require motor carriers to record and report how often each driver relied on the HOS waiver during the period of emergency.

— Eliminate events caused by market forces, including supply shortages, supply chain disruption and driver shortages as valid reasons for an emergency waiver unless an immediate threat to human life exists.

The proposed rule would maintain the authority of a governor to issue 30-day automatic waivers with two optional 30-day extension periods for shortages of heating fuels (heating oil, propane, natural gas) as required under the Reliable Home Heating Act (49 U.S.C. 31136 note).

EMA is currently analyzing the rule and will submit written comments to the FMCSA by the February 6, 2023 deadline.

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