Lawmakers Raise Concerns Over Proposal to Restrict Duration of State Hours of Service Waivers

On April 19th, U.S. Representatives Greg Pence (R-IN), Rick Crawford (R-AR) and 25 Members of Congress sent a letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regarding a 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 PPA would like to thank Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15th), Congressman Mike Kelly (PA-16th), and Congressman Scott Perry (PA-10th) for signing onto the letter at the associations request.

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. Unfortunately, FMCSA is proposing to reduce the duration of emergency waivers issued by state governors from 30 days to just 5 days even though the Administration indicated that there is no evidence to support the idea that the current waiver process has had any negative impacts on safety.

“The FMCSA’s proposed rule will unnecessarily limit their opportunity to respond and inevitably delay or deny vulnerable communities from getting crucial supplies. During time-sensitive disasters, the federal government should leverage our truckers’ ability to help, instead of adding more bureaucratic delays that could prevent life-saving deliveries from getting to those who need it,” said Congressman Pence.

The Congressional letter raises concerns over 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. It’s important that waivers are in place at least 5 days in advance of a storm to ensure an adequate supply of fuel.

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. Lawmakers expressed the importance of maintaining the current 30-day automatic waiver period for state declared emergencies to guarantee supply during and after a declared emergency.

Click here to read the Congressional letter.