The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 19 declared a state of emergency in 16 Midwestern states that have been saturated by heavy rains. Hours-of-service regulations have been relaxed for haulers involved in relief efforts in the affected areas.
Severe flooding has swamped many states, inundating roads and damaging livestock and harvests on farms across the region.
“This emergency declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations while providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts transporting supplies, equipment, fuel and people into and from the affected states or providing other assistance in the form of emergency services during the emergency in the affected states from severe flooding,” the emergency declaration document states.
According to the notice, “direct assistance” terminates when a driver engages in interstate commerce to transport cargo that doesn’t relate to emergency relief efforts or when a dispatcher sends a driver to another location to begin engaging in interstate commerce.
“If the driver informs the motor carrier that he or she needs immediate rest, the driver must be permitted at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty before the driver is required to return to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal reporting location,” the document states.
The emergency declaration will remain in effect for the duration of the emergency or until April 18, whichever comes sooner.
Some states are lifting similar regulations for drivers providing emergency relief. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts issued an executive order March 20 lifting certain HOS restrictions for drivers delivering relief supplies or hauling away debris and deceased livestock.
“In light of the historic flooding and devastation our communities have experienced, the governor’s office is working to cut red tape,” Taylor Gage, spokesman for the governor’s office, said in a statement. “These executive orders will help our communities as they work to recover and rebuild after the most widespread natural disaster in state history.”