FMCSA extends HOS exemption for fuel haulers in 10 states due to Colonial Pipeline hack

June 7, 2021

Land Line Staff

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A temporary hours-of-service exemption for fuel haulers remains in effect in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline Co. cyberattack last month.

On Friday, June 4, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced it was renewing and amending the disaster declaration issued on May 9. The amended version of the exemption applies to commercial vehicles transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products in 10 states.

The original order covered 17 states and the District of Columbia and was set to expire on Tuesday, June 8. The extension will run through June 18.

“Because emergency conditions in the affected states have not abated, FMCSA is extending and modifying the amended Regional Emergency Declaration No. 2021-002 and associated regulatory relief in the affected states in accordance with 49 CFR § 390.25,” the notice states.

The 10 affected states are: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

A cyberattack in May forced the Colonial Pipeline Co. to shut down its 5,500 miles of pipeline, according to a news release from the company. Colonial Pipeline’s website says it is the largest refined products pipeline in the United States, transporting more than 100 million gallons of fuel daily to meet the energy needs of consumers from Houston to the New York Harbor.

On May 9, FMCSA issued the exemption for carriers transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined petroleum products to the 10 states named in the new order, as well as the District of Columbia, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. FMCSA said the exemption was aimed at creating more flexibility for motor carriers and truck drivers as part of the attempt to avoid disruption to the fuel supply.

The attack and subsequent pipeline shutdown led to shortages of both gasoline and diesel in several states, along with a spike in fuel prices, according to a federal report.

According to NBC, the cyberattack is believed to be the work of a Russian cybercrime gang called DarkSide.

White House warning

In related news, the White House last week urged business leaders to step up security measures in the wake of the attacks on the Colonial Pipeline and on beef producer JBS.

Axios reports that the warning came in the form of a memo from Anne Neuberger, cybersecurity adviser at the National Security Council. Neuberger wrote that there has been a significant increase in the frequency and size of ransomware attacks in recent months and that the focus has shifted from stealing data to disrupting operations.

“All organizations must recognize that no company is safe from being targeted by ransomware, regardless of size or location,” the memo states. “But there are immediate steps you can take to protect yourself, as well as your customers and the broader economy.”

The memo encourages businesses to adopt the five best practices outlined in an executive order issued May 12 by President Biden that applies to federal agencies. Those practices include backing up data and other system information offline, updating and patching systems promptly, testing incident response plans, and segmenting networks. LL

News Anchor Terry Scruton contributed to this report.

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