HARVEY: FMCSA extends declaration of emergency to more than half the country

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 9/1/2017

After Harvey affected a significant percentage of the nation’s oil refining capacity, there are concerns of a shortage of fuel supplies, including diesel, gasoline, aviation fuel and home heating oil. In preparation for such a shortage, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced a Regional Declaration of Emergency that affects 26 states and the District of Columbia.

Effective immediately, exemptions from Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations will apply to Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

As government officials anticipate fuel shortages, they also expect an increased demand in transportation of fuels, including gasoline, diesel fuels, kerosene, jet fuel, aviation fuel, aviation gasoline, propane and home heating oil.

According to Chris Lee at ProMiles.com, that national average for diesel has gone up more than 4 cents since Monday, Aug. 28. Regionally, average increases have been somewhat stable, with the Gulf Coast experiencing a relatively modest 5-cent increase since Monday.

As Lee pointed out, the biggest concerns for diesel prices is at the local level. Since Monday, diesel has skyrocketed 24 cents in Dallas but only 8.6 cents in Houston. Prices are up nearly 16 cents as far away as Charlotte, N.C., and nearly 14 cents in Kansas City.   

Exemptions only apply to truckers providing direct assistance with relief efforts.  Once drivers “terminate” direct assistance, they are bound to all regulations as before. According to FMCSA, “direct assistance terminates when a driver or commercial motor vehicle is used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services not directly supporting the emergency relief effort.”

The exemptions are in effect for the duration of the emergency or until 11:59 p.m. ET, Sept. 30, whichever comes first.

FEMA loads
Drivers need to be aware of several factors before volunteering their time and equipment for hurricane relief efforts. Basic contract knowledge still applies, but detention time becomes a bigger issue than typical loads.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s Business Services reminds drivers to make sure whomever truckers haul FEMA loads for has broker authority and the surety/trust is active with no cancellation date. Also, make sure your carrier name is on the bill of lading.

AccuWeather is estimating the cost of Harvey to come to nearly $200 billion, which is more than the top two costliest hurricanes in the U.S. (Katrina and Sandy) combined or more than 1 percent of the U.S. GDP. With relief efforts expected to be immense, drivers should expect long delays.

OOIDA’s Business Services recommends looking over the detention layover time on the rate sheet. In fact, layover time is likely to be the most significant aspect of a FEMA load contract compared to more traditional loads.

Jerry Bartley, OOIDA Business Services regulatory specialist, said truckers will often times be sent to a general location but then redirected to another area to unload. When stranded at a holding station, it is not uncommon for FEMA to sign a piece of paper or for the driver to sign in every day. This can be important later down the road when billing for detention time.

“We have seen people go down (to emergency relief areas) and sit one day, a week,” Bartley said. “I’ve seen guys go down there 30 and 45 days.”

Bottom line: Do not expect to unload the same day, and always document everything.

During Hurricane Katrina relief, truckers for 4 Points Logistics were told they would be paid $60 an hour for detention time, with no limit on the numbers of hours of detention per day. However, drivers were only paid for 10 hours of detention time for every 24 hours. Truckers argued that they were technically on duty 24/7 with the hours-of-service exemptions in place. Drivers were held in staging areas for an average of 10 days.

Drivers should not expect to get paid for every hour of the day, regardless of HOS exemptions. However, Bartley emphasized the importance of looking over the detention layover time on the rate sheet to ensure that they will be paid for standard hours on duty, which is now 11 hours a day.

“They say ‘Buyer beware’ but this is ‘Trucker beware,’” Bartley said.

For more information about hurricane relief, check out FMCSA’s Hurricane Harvey page.

Copyright © OOIDA