Fireworks display companies have warned regulators that Fourth of July celebrations are at stake due to federal work-rule and electronic logging device (ELD) restrictions.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is asking for comments on applications from the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), which is requesting that expired waivers from the restrictions be renewed. APA said most of its 60 members are small, family-owned companies that rely on short-term seasonal drivers to deliver nearly 16,000 fireworks displays around the country.
“Without this exemption, America’s traditional celebrations of Independence Day would be at risk, as there are no practical alternatives available for compliance,” APA stated in its application.
“The HOS [hours-of-service] requirements on small businesses should be modified for this limited time each year to permit this small number of fireworks carriers to conduct Independence Day fireworks displays while maintaining an equivalent level of safety on our highways and in our communities. Indeed, the experience of APA members operating under this exemption for the past 15 years without any incidents, injuries or fatalities demonstrates that the exemption will not adversely affect safety.”
The exemption requests would allow drivers for APA’s members to exclude off-duty and sleeper berth time of any length from the calculation of the 14-hour limit and to use paper records-of-duty-status documentation in lieu of the now-required ELDs. The requests are for the transportation of pyrotechnics during an 11-day period from June 28 through July 8 of every year from 2021 through 2025.
The FMCSA has been issuing limited two-year waivers to fireworks haulers since the 14-hour rule began in 2005, and a five-year extension that expired last year. The rule prohibits drivers from driving after the 14th hour after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
Complying with the rule is “extraordinarily challenging” for fireworks haulers, they contend, because most fireworks display shows are transported in small rented or leased trucks that do not have sleeper berths.
“Accordingly, the drivers need to have an exemption or special permit to allow for rest periods throughout the day, other than in a sleeper berth, to be credited,” APA stated. “The 11-day HOS exemption allows drivers to end their workday at a hotel and obtain the necessary 10-hours off prior to beginning their next day of driving duties. This is repeated 5 to 7 times throughout the 11-day period.”
In addition, absent an exemption for its members, APA said they would be required to hire a second driver for most trips, “using whatever non-pyrotechnician drivers might be available and willing to work during the holiday season,” the group asserted. “It is very difficult, and often impossible, to locate qualified [hazardous material safety-permitted] drivers in the quantities that would be necessary to transport and conduct these displays for part-time, holiday-specific work.”
APA pointed out that requiring fireworks haulers to use ELDs for recordkeeping versus paper logs would also drive up costs for its members, because the devices would only be used during a limited seasonal delivery period. “As FMCSA has already determined, imposing such financial burdens is unnecessary where it will have no impact on safety.”
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