October 10, 2018 3:45 PM, EDT

HOS Rules Relaxed as Hurricane Michael Makes Landfall

HOS RulesA woman checks on her vehicle as Hurricane Michael passes through in Panama City Beach, Fla. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration relaxed hours-of-service regulations in eight states as Hurricane Michael made landfall Oct. 10, battering the Florida Panhandle with 155 mph winds.

Administrators at FMCSA’s Southern Service Centers on Oct. 9 declared a state of emergency in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The Category 4 storm, which made landfall at Mexico Beach, is the most powerful hurricane to strike the U.S. mainland since Hurricane Camille in 1969.

“This emergency declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations while providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts transporting supplies, equipment, fuel and persons into and from the affected states and jurisdictions or providing other assistance in the form of emergency services,” FMCSA’s notice declaring the state of emergency said.

According to the notice, “direct assistance” terminates when a driver engages in interstate commerce to transport cargo that doesn’t relate to emergency relief efforts or when a dispatcher sends a driver to another location to begin engaging in interstate commerce.

FMCSA’s notice grants exemption from Parts 390-399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which cover parts and accessories needed for safe operation, hours of service and longer combination vehicles. Drivers are not exempt from requirements relating to commercial driver licenses, drugs and alcohol, hazardous materials, size, weight and registration requirements.

FMCSA’s declaration will remain in effect for the duration of the emergency or until Nov. 9, whichever comes soonest.

The agency issued similar emergency declarations in response to Subtropical Storm Alberto and hurricanes Florence and Harvey.

Certain states are lifting similar regulations for drivers providing emergency relief. Even though it’s not one of the states encompassed in FMCSA’s emergency declaration, Kentucky has relaxed rules for crews heading to the affected areas to deliver goods, restore utilities and remove debris.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Greg Thomas issued a declaration Oct. 10 waiving HOS limits, weigh station stoppage, registration requirements and permit fees for such vehicles.

“Kentucky seeks to offer mutual aid to assist in the federal and state disaster response for the forecasted hurricane,” Thomas said in a statement. “Lifting these restrictions allows crews to assist with the relief effort as quickly as possible.”