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April 10, 2018 1:15 AM, EDT
FMCSA Grants Fuel Tank Drivers 5-Year Rest-Break Exemption
Tanker and driver Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted a five-year exemption from the 30-minute rest-break requirement for trucks hauling petroleum products and will allow fuel trucks to operate 12 hours a day without triggering the requirement under certain conditions.

FMCSA said that the exemption from the rest break was granted because fuel-truck drivers “receive several short breaks each day when they unload” at service stations.

“This is a great development for our fuel haulers and a shining example of association partnership for trucking advocates,” National Tank Truck Carriers President Daniel Furth said in a statement. “We are thrilled that the agency agrees that this relief will lower costs for carriers and prices for consumers without compromising safety on our nation’s roadways.”

Federal regulations require a 30-minute rest break for drivers once they reach eight consecutive hours.

Trucking Association of Massachusetts

NTTC and the Trucking Association of Massachusetts jointly applied for the exemption in September.

The organizations requested that FMCSA exempt the fuel-truck drivers who would be on duty more than 12 hours as long as their vehicles were carrying petroleum products and were equipped with an electronic logging device.

NTTC’s membership consists of more than 600 companies that specialize in bulk transportation services by cargo tank throughout North America. The tank truck industry generates about 6% of all truck freight revenue, but that represents 30% of all truck freight in terms of tonnage due to the heavy nature of the liquid bulk products it handles, NTTC said.

FMCSA agreed that the time these drivers spend unloading provides rest that is equivalent to, and often greater than, rest from the traditional 30-minute rest break. For that reason, the exemption allows the drivers a 14-hour window to make their fuel runs.

In the exemption request, the groups said that tank trucks normally are loaded with products in the morning and deliver them to three or more service stations during the rest of the duty day.

“Most of the estimated 38,000 vehicles engaged in such transportation each day qualify for the 100 air-mile radius exception, but on rare occasions, they do not,” the April 9 Federal Register announcement said.

FMCSA said it received nine public comments on the exemption request, four in favor of the application and five opposed. American Trucking Associations was in favor, citing the similarity of these operations to other hazardous material transporters that previously were granted a more limited exemption from the rest-break requirement.

The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO and the International Association of Firefighters opposed the NTTC application, arguing that allowing the drivers to operate without a rest break imposes unnecessary risks upon the motoring public.

But FMCSA said it had tailored the exemption so that it would not lead to abuse of hours-of-service rules.