Thursday, March 13, 2014

HR 2086 Introduced – Hazmat Transportation

As I noted last week, Sen. Thune (D,SD) introduced S 2086, the Reliable Home Heating Act. This was one of two Senate bills introduced that dealt with extending the current DOT exemption from certain Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations (including hours-of-service limitations) for truckers delivering fuel oil and propane in areas of the country hit hard by cold weather and home heating fuel shortages.

Other Legislation

The other Senate bill, S 2085, is a companion bill to HR 4076 that was recently passed in the House. This bill includes the same language as both HR 4076 and S 2085, but it also includes language that would allow State Governors to allow these sorts of exemptions to FMCSA regulations within their borders by declaring “a state of emergency caused by a shortage of residential heating fuel” {§2(b)}. That authority would be limited to a period of 30-days with authority for two 30-day extensions. It would also require FMCSA to incorporate this authority into existing regulations {§2(c)}.

Exemption from DOT Regulations

The exemptions in all three bills apply to:

Part 390 - Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; General
Part 391 - Qualifications of Drivers and Longer Combination Vehicle (LCV) Driver Instructors
Part 392 - Driving of Commercial Motor Vehicles
Part 393 - Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation
Part 395 - Hours of Service of Drivers
Part 396 - Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance
Part 397 - Transportation of Hazardous Materials; Driving and Parking Rules
Part 398 - Transportation of Migrant Workers
Part 399 - Employee Safety and Health Standards

The broad sweep of the exemptions to safety rules is due to the language of the bill applying the coverage to “parts 390 through 399 of chapter III of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations” {§2(b)}. This is based upon the current wording of §390.23(a) which reads:

“Parts 390 through 399 of this chapter shall not apply to any motor carrier or driver operating a commercial motor vehicle to provide emergency relief during an emergency, subject to the following time limits:”

Interestingly §390.23 and §390.25 of 49 CFR already provide State Governors the authority to declare the initial 30-day exemption, but not the two 30-day extensions of those exemptions included in this bill.

Moving Forward

This bill is more expansive in its coverage by requiring the two 30-day extensions to be incorporated into FMCSA regulations. That may make this bill harder to pass than HR 4076 or S 2085. I am surprised that none of these three bills have yet been taken up by the Senate. It would seem to me that HR 4076 would have been a slam-dunk for passage under unanimous consent. Passing S 2086 instead of HR 4076 would delay the application of the extension of the current DOT exemption as it would have to go back to the House for action.

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