In Case of Emergency: FMCSA’s Ability to Suspend Regulations

Kevin Anderson Regulations, Transportation

This fall has brought with it two devastating storms that ravaged a large part of the continental United States. Many of us watched the massive Hurricane Harvey dump feet of rain on the Houston, Texas area. As if this storm was not enough, it was followed by a category five hurricane, the biggest ever recorded in the Atlantic, which pummeled Florida.

Both storms did much to destroy everything in their path, and leave the people who live there to rebuild their lives. Because of the tremendous destructive power of the storms, people left behind and those who fled require emergency supplies like food, water, and shelter. Of course our system of transportation revolves around moving goods by truck, so it makes sense that trucks and truckers would provide much of the much needed relief supplies to those affected by the storms.

FMCSA Authority to Suspend Rules

In order to expedite the supply route, and prevent holdups that could cost lives, federal rules were suspended to enable truckers to better assist in the aftermath of the storms. The most important rule that was suspended was a suspension of the hours-of-service regulations in several states affected by the storms, or in states capable of exporting goods to states who need them. Those states include:

  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Missouri
  • Ohio
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi

As you can see, the suspension reaches much farther than just those areas hit by a hurricane. And in order to qualify for the suspended rules, certain circumstances must apply.

Before a trucker or company can operate under the suspended rules, they must be actively helping in hurricane relief. This means that the trucking company is providing disaster relief supplies to the disaster area. The rules also require that the company or trucker apply for a temporary operating authority with the FMCSA.

These are common sense rules that the FMCSA is authorized to implement by federal law. But they are only able to lift these rules when there is a national emergency or disaster which requires the transportation of goods interstate to an affected area. Of course the shipment of relief goods does not have to be for free; in fact, it is an important part of the economics of recovery to ensure that many of those involved in recovery are paid to do it, and that way it gets done fast and well.

In most cases there is a fee and other paperwork that must be completed before a license is granted, but that can be waived as well. In this case the FMCSA has waived the application fee, but the paperwork still needs to be filled out. The paperwork can be found at the FMCSA, but having a plan in place before these emergencies can prove invaluable. That is where qualified legal counsel fits in.

Your Oregon and Washington Law Firm for Transportation Companies

These rules are an example of the many different ways that transportation law can be very complex, and require the guidance of qualified professionals. At Anderson and Yamada we have decades of experience representing transportation companies. As you explore your legal needs more, contact us so we can show you how we can help you.