Snowed-in States Grant Emergency HOS Exemptions

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is coordinating with six northeastern states, some of which have exempted drivers until at least Feb. 18 to deliver emergency supplies.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is coordinating with six states in the Northeast that were hit hard by the weekend blizzard and declared emergencies as a result. These declarations allow vital supplies and transportation services to be provided in disaster areas and can be issued by the president, governors, or FMCSA itself.

They temporarily suspend certain federal safety regulations, including hours of service (HOS) rules, for motor carriers and drivers engaged in specific aspects of the emergency relief effort. Relief from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations is limited to no more than 30 days unless FMCSA extends it. In addition, the exemptions apply only to 49 CFR Parts 390-399. -– not to commercial driver's license, drug and alcohol, hazardous materials, size and weight, or state/federal registration and tax requirements, although a governor's declaration can add some of those exemptions.

Even if an emergency declaration is in effect, the emergency must be ongoing, and the driver must be providing direct emergency relief in order to be exempt from safety regulations. FMCSA cautions that drivers and carriers are expected to use good judgment and not operate vehicles with fatigued or ill drivers or present a clear hazard to other motorists using the highways.

Connecticut and Rhode Island declared full or limited emergency exemptions from HOS until Feb. 13. Maine did likewise through Feb. 12, and New Jersey through Feb. 18. New York has modified HOS regulations for carriers transporting heating fuels through Feb. 20. The Massachusetts governor's emergency declaration is in effect until further notice.

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