FMCSA issues HOS exemption in response to Colonial Pipeline cyberattack

May 10, 2021

Mark Schremmer


In response to a cybersecurity attack on one of the nation’s largest pipelines, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a temporary hours-of-service exemption to fuel haulers in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

According to a news release from the Colonial Pipeline Co., the attack forced it to shut down its 5,500 miles of pipeline in an attempt to contain the threat. 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.

“Maintaining the operational security of our pipeline, in addition to safely bringing our systems back online, remain our highest priorities,” the company wrote in its news release on Sunday, May 9. “Over the past 48 hours, Colonial Pipeline personnel have taken additional precautionary measures to help further monitor and protect the safety and security of its pipeline.”

On May 9, FMCSA issued the exemption for carriers transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined petroleum products to Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas 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 U.S. Department of Transportation’s top priority is safety, and while current circumstances dictate providing industry flexibility, FMCSA will work closely with its state and industry partners to monitor driver work hours and conditions for the duration of the exemption.”

The exemption is set to remain in effect until the end of the emergency or June 8, whichever is earlier.

What’s next?

Colonial Pipeline said it is working with leading cybersecurity experts, law enforcement and federal agencies to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

“The Colonial Pipeline operations team is developing a system restart plan,” the news release stated. “While our mainlines remain offline, some smaller lateral lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational. We are in the process of restoring service to other laterals and will bring our full system back online only when we believe it is safe to do so, and in full compliance with the approval of all federal regulations.”

According to NBC, the cyberattack is believed to be the work of a Russian cybercrime gang called DarkSide. The news outlet also reported that industry experts say a prolonged shutdown of the pipeline could push fuel prices higher in the eastern parts of the United States. LL


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Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.