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September 7, 2017 1:15 PM, EDT
HOS Suspended for Truckers Carrying Hurricane Irma Aid

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has suspended several trucking regulations, including hours-of-service requirements, to facilitate the movement of aid that carriers deliver to states and territories in the path of oncoming Hurricane Irma.

Chao

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao directed FMCSA to issue a Regional Emergency Declaration Sept. 6. Drivers providing direct assistance are exempt from Parts 390-399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. In addition to hours of service, this portion of the rule manual covers parts and accessories needed for safe operation and longer combination vehicles.

The hours-of-service rule mandates that a truck operator cannot drive more than 11 hours within a 14-hour period. FMCSA’s emergency declaration relaxes these rules for drivers engaged in “specific aspects of the emergency relief” such as restoring electrical lines and distributing essential supplies.

“I have directed all U.S. DOT modal administrations to take immediate, proactive steps in preparation for the impending landfall of this very powerful and very dangerous hurricane,” Chao said in a press release issued by FMCSA. “As with Hurricane Harvey, the Department of Transportation will continue to work closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal and state entities to provide every resource available for areas impacted by Hurricane Irma.”

FMCSA’s emergency declaration extends to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, drivers on relief missions are exempt from the designated regulations in all states on their routes, even if those states are not under an emergency declaration.

Drivers are not exempt from rules applying to commercial driver license registration, drugs, alcohol and size limitations.

FMCSA’s declaration comes on the heels of a similar notice the agency issued Aug. 31 for states affected by Hurricane Harvey. The Harvey declaration, which applied to 26 states and the District of Columbia, is still in effect.

The National Weather Service predicts that Irma will strike the southern tip of Florida on Sept. 10. The storm’s maximum sustained wind so far is 175 mph, according to the weather service.