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Fire, drought and tight petroleum supplies spur more hours-of-service waivers

Several governors sign 30-day exemptions for certain types of truck activity

(Photo: Jim Allen / FreightWaves)

The list of states creating hours-of-service (HOS) waivers for a variety of reasons is growing.

Several states have seen their governors sign executive orders granting trucker HOS waivers for 30 days, which is allowed by law. 

In Colorado, the flooding that hit various burn scars and the subsequent rock and mud slides and closure of Interstate 70 has led Gov. Jared Polis to declare a state of emergency, with numerous changes in regulations. One of them involves hours of service.

The HOS exemption in Colorado is fairly sweeping. While other waivers have been targeted at specific uses, such as petroleum transportation, the Colorado waiver covers far more.

On the list: trucks transporting “gasoline, diesel, aviation fuels, propane, natural gas and other home heating fuels, medical supplies, sanitation, food, paper products, other groceries, and supplies or equipment necessary for community safety.”

The waiver also has the standard clause that it is up to carriers to ensure that their drivers are not suffering from fatigue. If a driver is suffering from “fatigue or illness, the driver must not be allowed to drive,” the waiver said. 

The waiver went into effect Aug. 3 for 30 days.

Next door to Colorado, Nebraska has a waiver that went into effect Aug. 5 and expires Aug. 31. The waiver targets “gasoline and gasoline blends.” It makes no mention of diesel. 

“Several Midwestern states are experiencing gasoline shortages due to refineries shut down for maintenance and issues with the transition from winter gasoline to summer gasoline,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said in his proclamation. 

However, a review of data from the Energy Information Administration does not show a decline in crude oil throughput at refineries in the area known as PADD 2, which includes Nebraska. Weekly throughput in July for the past six years, excluding the pandemic impact of 2020, shows average crude input of approximately 3.9 million barrels a day. The average for July 2021 is 3.95 million barrels a day. 

In North Dakota, a 30-day waiver ordered by Gov. Doug Burgum cites “the worst drought on record,” a claim backed by data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center. It shows areas that are in the worst category to recently have been as much as 17% of the state, higher than anything on record.

The latest map of North Dakota’s drought situation from the weekly National Drought Monitor. The large maroon area in the middle is the most severe level of drought reported by the Monitor.

Like a recent HOS waiver issued in Minnesota, the rationale for the waiver cites the drought’s impact on the state’s agricultural sector. “Drivers of commercial trucks have been required to move hay and water supplies in significantly greater volumes across the state to enable livestock producers to maintain existing herds and meet the needs of our state,” according to the proclamation signed by Burgum. 

The order waives the state’s HOS regulations but also allows heavier trucks on the road. Routes that had restrictions of 75 feet now can move up to 95 feet. Routes with a weight limit of 80,000 pounds now go up to 105,500 pounds. Some permit fees are waived. 

Minnesota has tacked on a petroleum transport waiver. That went into effect Aug. 5. It followed one by Iowa declared at the end of July. Both are for 30 days. South Dakota already had a petroleum-related waiver in place. 

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.