U.S. DOT takes additional steps to address Colonial Pipeline situation

May 12, 2021

Land Line Staff

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The U.S. Department of Transportation is taking additional steps to help states negatively affected by last week’s cybersecurity attack on the Colonial Pipeline Co.

The DOT issued a news release on the night of Tuesday, May 11, announcing that it, along with the White House, determined that previous declarations of “major disaster” issued by the president in the past 120 days allow states covered by those declarations to use interstate highways in their state to transport overweight loads of gasoline and other fuels.

Ten states – Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia – are all covered under these declarations, which will expire at different times. For instance, Maryland’s 120-day declaration period expires on June 4, and Virginia’s expires on Sept. 7.

The states covered under this declaration must continue to follow their own procedures for issuance of special permits authorizing the loads, but the added flexibility allows these trucks to run on the interstate highway system and other federal highways. This flexibility is in addition to preexisting authority for states to issue special permits allowing the trucks to run on state highways.

These 10 states also are covered under a separate emergency declaration issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which allows truck drivers hauling emergency fuel to be exempt from the agency’s hours-of-service regulations. In addition to the aforementioned 10 states, FMCSA’s exemption also covers Arkansas, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and West 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 FMCSA exemption is set to remain in effect until the end of the emergency or June 8, whichever is earlier.

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.”

Several states also have issued executive orders because of the pipeline attack.

Georgia

Gov. Brian P. Kemp issued an executive order in response to the Colonial Pipeline shutdown on May 10. The order applies to truckers providing immediate relief to the petroleum shortage in the state.

This order:

  • Suspends hours of service on relief loads.
  • Increases size, weight limits.
  • Overheight loads may require escorts.
  • Permits required on oversize, weight loads.
  • Relief loads may bypass weigh stations.
  • Fuel tax collection at the pump is waived.

It should be noted that the executive order does not waive IFTA obligations on truckers operating in the state. Purchasing untaxed fuel could affect quarterly IFTA filings and increase the likelihood that money will be owed.

The order is valid until 11:59 p.m., May 15.

North Carolina

The executive order, dated May 10, waives the following regulations for vehicles carrying emergency relief supplies to assist with ensuring adequate fuel supplies:

Hours of service.

  • Size and weight limitations, up to 90,000 pounds.
  • Temporary trip permits.
  • Quarterly fuel tax return filing.
  • Vehicle registration (insurance is not waived).

Nonparticipants in IFTA and IRP will be allowed in the state.

As is often the case, when operating a commercial motor vehicle under waivers implemented by executive orders, truck drivers must produce documentation to establish that their loads are for direct assistance. Fuel types specifically eligible for the waivers are gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined petroleum products.

The direct assistance provision terminates when the vehicle is not being used in direct support of emergency relief efforts or otherwise dispatched.

The executive order is good for 30 days or the duration of the emergency, whichever is less.

Virginia

On May 11, Gov. Ralph S. Northam signed an executive order to assist with fuel disruptions associated with the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack.

The order, effective until June 10 or sooner if the fuel disruption is resolved, does not waive any current trucking regulations in the state. LL

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