August 8, 2012 9:30 AM, EDT
Feds Waive HOS Rules in Drought-Stricken Areas

The Department of Transportation has waived hours-of-service regulations for areas affected by drought, to help put more needed trucks and drivers on the road to help affected farmers and ranchers.

HOS rules will be waived if a qualifying drought emergency has been declared in a state by its governor or appropriate official, with no application needed, the White House said on its website.

If the situation does not qualify for emergency relief, federal rules regulating large truck and bus operations may be waived in certain circumstances, the White House said.

The ongoing drought has slammed Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and southern Illinois and Indiana, and its effects on trucking have hit agricultural carriers especially hard.

DOT can process a request to waive regulations in seven to 14 days, and the transportation law signed by President Obama signed in July provides new authority for states to issue special permits for overweight vehicles and loads that can easily be dismantled or divided in an emergency situation, it said.

DOT is expediting the process of developing guidance for states to support their permitting programs and the way in which “relief supplies” are defined may provide states with a new tool to use for hauling heavy loads of grain, livestock and other goods, in order to give drought relief.

Weather forecasters said Wednesday that much-needed rain would fall over much of the Midwest, which could help soybean crops but may be too late to help heavily damaged corn crops, Reuters reported.