The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials called on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to provide greater clarification regarding safety regulation waivers during times of emergencies.
[Above photo by FMCSA]
In a letter sent to FMCSA on January 26, AASHTO said it agreed with the agency’s rulemaking proposal issued in December 2022 to limit waivers of safety regulations in regional and local emergencies to only hours-of-service rules governing trucking operations.
However, AASHTO said FMCSA’s proposed rule does not make clear why a broader waiver of all safety regulations would continue for national emergencies and residential heating oil shortages, but not for regional or local ones.
AASHTO is also concerned with FMCSA’s proposal to reduce the initial 30-day period for regional emergencies to five days. “This proposed rule changes will negatively affect state department of transportation flexibility when responding to emergencies,” the organization said in its letter. “Flexibility and reduced regulation are immensely valuable especially when resources and time are frequently limited [and so] we request to maintain or increase the 30-day period.”
AASHTO also asked FMCSA to broaden the definition of “emergencies” in its rulemaking proposal to cover more than natural disasters – in particular, adding health and cybersecurity to the mix.
The organization also said FMCSA should broaden the definition of “direct assistance” regarding emergencies in two ways.
First, “direct assistance” should cover delivery of emergency supplies before the event occurs; for example, the delivery of relief supplies prior to the onset of a hurricane or blizzard. While some emergencies cannot be predicted, others can be predicted with a high degree of confidence.
Second, “direct assistance” should also cover debris removal, which is often necessary to enable delivery of emergency supplies or effective emergency response.