California Wildfires Could Affect Hour of Service Logs

October 27, 2017 Published by

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a variety of very strict rules and regulations regarding how truck drivers and shipping services log their hours of service. However, when states issue emergency declarations or when other exceptional circumstances arise, the FMCSA may choose to suspend some of these regulations so affected regions can get necessary supplies and relief.

For example, after Hurricane Harvey, the FMCSA suspended hours of service rules to ensure drivers in Louisiana and Texas could provide direct assistance to the affected areas as quickly as possible.

With the wildfires currently raging throughout California, the FMCSA could once again choose to suspend these rules. Many cities have been ravaged by the fires, with especially troubling photos and videos coming from Santa Rosa and the surrounding area. With the amount of devastation the state has experienced, there is a tremendous need for expeditious assistance, and in most cases, only industries governed by the FMCSA will be able to provide that relief.

How does FMCSA relief typically work?

For the FMCSA to provide relief from its hours of service rules and get vital supplies and transportation services to a disaster area, an official emergency declaration must have been made by the president, a governor or the FMCSA itself. These declarations automatically trigger the suspension of certain regulations for all drivers and motor carriers in certain aspects of providing emergency relief. This relief applies for up to 30 days, unless extended by the FMCSA.

Here are some of the applicable elements of relief in disaster situations:

  • Any drivers responding with direct assistance to an emergency situation as declared by the FMCSA, a governor or the president is exempt from applicable regulations in all states en route to the emergency, even if those states themselves were not affected by the disaster in question.
  • There are limits to the exemptions issued in disaster situations. They do not, for example, exempt drivers and carriers from the rules regarding commercial driver’s licenses, drug and alcohol use, size and weight loading requirements, hazardous material transportation or tax requirements.
  • Drivers must actually be providing direct emergency assistance to be exempt from safety regulations.
  • Drivers are not required to carry a copy of the declaration of disaster in the vehicle unless the declaration specifically states that requirement.
  • Drivers and carriers are expected to contact and coordinate with emergency officials in the state before providing any assistance.
  • Just because safety regulations are suspended does not mean drivers have to work extra hours. They are still expected to use their best judgment and are encouraged to not operate their vehicle while fatigued or ill, or in any other circumstances that could prove hazardous to them or their cargo.

This is just a brief overview of what shipping companies should know about FMCSA regulations during declared disaster periods. For more information about the possible regulation exemptions that could affect your company, contact our GPS monitoring service today. We look forward to helping you understand these complex requirements!

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