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FMCSA rescinds exemption allowing propane truckers to drive longer

Written by Steve Gursten Posted April 29th, 2014

Truckers can no longer drive past HOS, as they were allowed this past winter

propane HOS exemption

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently cancelled the hours of service (HOS)  waivers for propane haulers and similar home heating fuel haulers in nearly all of the states where these waivers were granted. The waivers were implemented by congress.

Fortunately, this  means truckers can no longer drive past the federally regulated hours of service, as they were allowed to this past winter.

The propane hauling exemptions were issued in 37 states. The cancellations affect 31 of those states. The waiver expirations are effective immediately, according to the FMCSA.

Steve Gursten, a founding trial attorney of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, wrote about the propane exemption for hours of service in Michigan, and what a dangerous move it was, as propane trucks pose a much greater danger than drivers hauling other goods. When a propane truck crashes, explosions and fire can ensue and more people can be horribly injured and killed. Combine that with the treacherous winter weather we had and officials were just asking for chaos.

In a recent Federal Register, the FMCSA announced that only six states will continue to observe the propane hauler exemption. Those states are: Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The propane hauling exemptions were issued in January in response to the brutally cold winter that gripped the nation, sparking a nationwide propane shortage. The FMSCA granted exemptions to propane and home heating fuel haulers in 37 states.

But the exemption didn’t stop there. The shortage and FMCSA response landed on Congress’ radar. Shortly thereafter, Congress responded — citing FMCSA’s ability to pass only 30-day extensions of the waivers at a time — and  passed the Home Heating Emergency Assistance Through Transportation Act. This bill was signed into law by the President on March 31, 2014.

As passed, the law extended the propane waivers until May 31. However, Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, was directed by the by bill itself to work with state regulators to determine whether the waivers were truly necessary through the allotted date. Accordingly, 30 states and D.C. all reported to the agency they’re no longer experiencing the propane shortage.

As the exemption has been largely rescinded, it’s important that all truck drivers out there hauling propane or other home heating fuels keep that in mind and observe the hours of service regulations.

Remember — driving in excess of the hours of service or failing to make federally mandated break is not only illegal, but it also causes a sharp increase in the likeliness of a truck driver causing a very serious truck accident. And any preventable crash is a tragedy that should never happen.  That safety message is a founding mission of our Roundtable.

Also, keep in mind that truck accidents are the leading cause of death for oil and gas truck drivers, according to the New York Times. This is due to the effects of fatigue on the drivers, disrepair trucks and an industry that often breaks the rules. In this case, legally allowing drivers to stay on the road long after other commercial motor vehicles must turn in.

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.