The regional director of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a regional declaration of emergency on Oct. 29. The declaration waives the hours-of-service regulations for trucks providing “direct assistance” to the relief efforts.
The declaration, which is authorized under regulation 390.23, is currently scheduled to remain in effect for 15 days– through 11:59 p.m., Nov. 12.
In order to use the waiver, drivers must carry a copy of the declaration order with them and be specifically dispatched with a load of relief supplies.
“Direct assistance terminated when a driver or commercial motor vehicle is used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services not destined for the emergency relief effort or when the motor carrier operation dispatches such driver or vehicle to another location to begin operations in the furtherance of commerce,” the declaration states.
In plain-speak, when you’re under load with a bill of lading showing relief supplies, if you have a copy of the declaration with you, you’ll be OK. Once you drop off that load and you are dispatched back to your normal loads, the waiver is no longer in effect for you.
The declaration of emergencies causes some confusion. So much so, that FMCSA has guidance specifically addressing the enactment of 390.23, which is the “relief from regulations” regulation, and is enacted during times of disaster.
For example, here are two of the questions listed in the guidance:
Question 1:Does §390.23 create an exemption from the FMCSRs each and every time the delivery of electricity is interrupted, no matter how isolated or minor the occurrence?
Guidance: The rule creates an exemption from the FMCSRs when interruptions of electricity are severe enough to trigger a declaration of an emergency by a public official authorized to do so.
An interruption of electricity that does not produce a declaration by a public official is not an emergency for purposes of the regulation and does not exempt a motor carrier or driver from the FMCSRs. A call reporting a downed power line, whether directed to the State police or a public utility company, does not create a declared emergency.
The authority to declare emergencies has been delegated to different officials in the various States. The FHWA has not attempted to list these officials. In order to utilize the exemption provided by §390.23, drivers and motor carriers must therefore ascertain that a declaration of an emergency was made by a State or local official authorized to do so.
Question 2: §390.23(a) provides that parts 390 through 399 do not apply to any motor carrier or driver operating a CMV to provide direct assistance in an emergency. Is a motor carrier or driver required to keep a record of the driver’s on-duty or driving time while providing relief?
To read more of the guidance related to emergency declarations under 390.23, click here
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