Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina grant emergency hours-of-service waivers

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The governors of Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina have issued executive orders to lift the restrictions on the number of hours that truck drivers delivering fuel can work following a pipeline explosion in Alabama.

One worker was killed and five others were injured during a Colonial Pipeline explosion on Monday, Oct. 31, in Shelby County, Ala. The explosion occurred while workers were attempting to make repairs from a previous pipeline rupture in September.

As of Wednesday, officials said the pipeline could reopen as early as Saturday. The shutdown could affect fuel supplies to millions of residents in the Southeast.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared states of emergency in order to temporarily waive the maximum hours of service for transportation of fuel.

Alabama’s order was signed Oct. 31 and will last 30 days, unless it is terminated sooner. The waiver relates to pipeline repair and transportation of fuel.

The order noted that it does not extend to drivers or motor carriers under an out-of-service order.

Georgia’s order was also signed Oct. 31 and is in effect for as long as 14 days. Gov. Deal wrote that the emergency declaration was necessary to protect the safety of Georgians and to ensure the uninterrupted supply of transportation fuel throughout Georgia.

The order notes that any driver operating under the order too ill or fatigued to drive is to receive a 10-hour rest break, following notification to the driver’s motor carrier.

North Carolina’s order signed on Nov. 1 is an extension of an emergency declaration regarding Hurricane Matthew.

Gov. McCrory said the order is to ensure that there will be adequate supplies of fuel across the state and to prevent price gouging.

“Our administration is taking all necessary precautions to reduce the impact of the pipeline disruption on North Carolina,” Gov. McCrory said in a news release. “The Colonial Pipeline disruption is a transportation challenge, not a production challenge.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation outlines several things drivers need to know about an emergency declaration or hours-of-service waiver.

  1. Drivers responding to provide “direct assistance” to an “emergency” that meets the definitions declared by the FMCSA or a governor are exempt from applicable regulations in all states on their route even though some of the states may not be involved in the emergency or stated in the declaration of emergency.
  2. These orders do not exempt drivers and/or motor carriers from the requirements relating to a commercial driver’s license; drugs and alcohol; hazardous materials; size and weight; state/federal registration; and tax requirements unless a governor’s declaration specifically includes those as exemptions.
  3. Even if an emergency declaration is still in effect, the emergency must be ongoing, and a driver must be providing direct emergency assistance in order to be exempt from safety regulations.
  4. There is no requirement to carry the copy of the declaration in the vehicle unless it is stated in the declaration.
  5. Drivers and carriers should coordinate with state emergency officials before providing assistance. State regulations regarding size and weight, permits, taxes, etc., may not have been waived.
  6. Even though safety regulations may be suspended, drivers and carriers are expected to use good judgment and not operate vehicles with fatigued or ill drivers, or under any conditions presenting a clear hazard to other motorists using the highways. 

Click here to read the emergency regulation.

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