Hurricane Sandy disaster relief efforts continue

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | 11/5/2012

A week after Hurricane Sandy pounded the Northeast, federal and state agencies are waiving restrictions and environmental rules designed to get fuel and relief supplies flowing to those severely affected by the storm.

As many as 1.7 million people are still without power, and much of the Northeast is struggling with major fuel shortages after Sandy disrupted refineries and damaged pipelines.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie has ordered fuel rationing in 12 counties, while New Yorkers continue to struggle with scarce fuel supplies.

As a result of the shortages caused by Hurricane Sandy, the EPA has temporarily waived federal clean diesel fuel requirements in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York City. The waiver states that "heating oil and nonroad fuel with less than 15 ppm sulfur that contains red dye may be used in any model year diesel-powered highway and nonroad vehicles and nonroad equipment designated by the state of New York and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, respectively."

In addition to supply shortages, many vapor recovery systems were damaged. That could have prevented compliance with clean air mandates when refilling ground tanks. The EPA implemented a No Action Assurance that will allow the loading and unloading of bulk fuel in New York and New Jersey without fear of enforcement by the agency because of the damaged vapor recovery systems. The enforcement moratorium lasts until Nov. 17.

According to the FMSCA, five state tolling agencies may waive toll costs or reimburse truckers for toll fares who are hauling relief supplies. Drivers are encouraged to call the states’ point-of-contacts in advance and provide the vendor, number of trucks in the convoy, and estimated date and time they will arrive at the toll facilities. 

The Port Authority of New York/New Jersey is encouraging truckers to call the New York City Office of Emergency Management Transportation Desk at 718-422-8806. Additional information is available on their website.

Drivers may be asked to show their credentials, including CDL and additional identification proving they work for the company providing emergency relief. They are also encouraged to use manned toll booths whenever possible.

The Delaware Department of Transportation also may waive tolls for utility service vehicles directly assisting in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. They are advised to call the Newark DE Toll Plaza Control Center at 302-366-7272, 302-366-7274 or 302-366-7274. Drivers are advised to use the far-right cash/E-ZPass “wide load” lane.

The Maryland Department of Transportation will waive toll costs for emergency vehicles, electric utility trucks, tree/debris clearing trucks and equipment, and American Red Cross vehicles directly assisting in relief efforts. Drivers are encouraged to use the far-right toll lanes, must stop at the tollbooth, and must identify to the toll collector that they are part of the relief efforts. Toll relief is in effect until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority will waive tolls for those assisting with hurricane relief efforts. Those eligible include commercial vehicles, including utility service vehicles, that are assisting relief efforts. Drivers are asked to call head to the Regional Operations Info. Center at 609-963-6900, ext.7701. Truck drivers have been instructed to use the far-right “extra wide” lane.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has stated that toll reimbursement “will be considered” for those commercial vehicles with FEMA or PEMA numbers hauling emergency relief supplies. Drivers are to use the E-ZPass lanes and proceed “without stopping though entry and exit lanes.” Free passage will be granted “on the back end through the appeal of any violation notices received by company owners.” The point-of-contact is Laura Quick, manager of ETC customer relations. Her number is 717-939-9551, ext. 2930.

The FMCSA has set up a hotline number at 202-366-1927 for truck drivers hauling disaster relief loads who have waiver questions or need additional information. Several states have issued IRP/IFTA waivers, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York and New Jersey to speed truck shipments to the Northeast.

The Internal Revenue Service waived its rule that imposes a tax penalty whenever dyed diesel fuel is used for highway needs to allow truckers to use dyed diesel because of the diesel shortage caused by the hurricane.

The 80,000-pound truck weight restrictions have also been lifted in New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut because of the hurricane.

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