Federal regulators in the U.S. are keeping tabs on storms producing heavy snowfall during Thanksgiving weekend in case exemptions from hours-of-service (HOS) regulations are needed.
As earlier reported by FreightWaves, two winter-like storms are predicted to produce significant amounts of snow as they move across the western United States, making the going tough for holiday travelers and truckers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which issues emergency declarations that exempt carriers from HOS restrictions during major events such as hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes, will also issue such declarations during major snowstorms, but that has not yet been the case for the current storms.
“We’re in a holding pattern right now,” Alex Keenan, emergency coordinator for FMCSA, told FreightWaves on Nov. 27. “There is a potential [for emergency declarations] with these storms, but we have not yet heard from Wyoming, Colorado or any other states being affected.”
Typically states will contact the agency and request a federal emergency order or they can issue their own order independent of the FMCSA, Keenan said.
HOS exemptions granted through federal emergency declarations generally allow motor carriers to haul emergency supplies around the clock instead of being subject to the 11-hour driving limit and 14-hour driving window.
Keenan said that if a federal emergency declaration is announced this week, it would likely only apply to trucks hauling winter storm supplies such as salt or snow removal equipment such as bulldozers and graders.
There are currently 11 Midwestern states under an emergency declaration from the FMCSA that’s providing HOS exemptions for haulers of heating fuel, including propane, in response to “early onset winter weather conditions.”
Keenan explained that due to flooding in the spring and summer, farmers had a late harvest season. “They’re still in the process of producing corn and soybeans, but to do that the crops have to go through a warming process, which has caused a bigger demand for propane,” he said.