Five states have now declared temporary emergency exemptions of federal driving hours for deliveries of heating fuel.
Colorado, North and South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming all have temporary exemptions in place in hopes that these increased hours will not only help with propane deliveries, but aid in driver safety, enabling them more time on the road to travel safely in extreme weather conditions instead of trying to rush to meet federal driving hour requirements.
On December 20, the Colorado State Patrol approved a temporary exemption through January 31 from federal hours-of-service regulations for commercial drivers hauling consumer heating fuels, propane, and natural gas.
“Should it become apparent that a driver’s ability or alertness is impaired or is likely to become impaired by fatigue or illness, the driver must not be allowed to drive. In addition, an ill or fatigued driver shall not operate a commercial motor vehicle,” stated Maj. J.P. Burt of the Colorado State Patrol operational services branch, in a letter posted on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.
On December 19, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum issues a 30-day executive order as the state experiences record-breaking winter storms and cold temperatures. These conditions have caused a significant demand as well as decreased availability of heating fuels such as diesel fuel, gas, heating oil, propane, and natural gas.
The governor felt that this shortage of supplies combined with difficulties faced by transport carriers struggling to meet these high demands “poses an immediate risk to public health, safety and welfare.” It was with this in mind that a state of emergency was declared to ensure the successful transport and delivery of heating fuels to meet the state’s needs.
The order allows only for approved heating fuels and precludes allowing fatigued drivers to operate motor vehicles.
The order noted, “A driver who informs a carrier that she/he needs immediate rest shall be given at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before the driver is required to return to duty. Motor carriers or drivers currently subject to an out-of-service order are not eligible for the relief granted by this order until the applicable conditions have been met and the out-of-service order has been rescinded.”
Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota issued an emergency executive order effective December 16-January 15. The order notes that state residents “are faced with extremely low inventories and outages of propane and heating fuel.”
The South Dakota order also prohibits carriers from requiring or allowing fatigued drivers to operate a motor vehicle. It also states that a tired driver who informs a carrier must be given immediate and adequate rest before returning to the road.
On December 16, Utah Governor, Spencer Cox issued a 30-day emergency order in response to high propane demand across the region due to frigid temperatures. He declared a liquid petroleum gas emergency.
“This order will give drivers the flexibility they need to deliver propane safely and give consumers propane when they need it most,” Cox said. “We’re seeing long lines at loading facilities.”
On December 15, Wyoming Governor, Mark Gordon issued an executive order which lasts through January 14.
“Wyoming has the ability, through an executive order, to make emergency changes in regulations so that the prompt delivery of propane to customers throughout the state is not impeded by restrictions to the hours that can be worked by qualified drivers,” the order stated.
Both the Wyoming and Utah orders noted that their state is experiencing low propane supplies at refineries due to reduced production while the fuel is needed to heat homes and business while propane transportation and delivery companies are forced to drive further and wait longer at terminals to obtain propane.
As with all states issuing these emergency orders, Wyoming’s order also declares that companies may not allow or require fatigued drivers to operate a vehicle.