Safe Haven Rule Explained

The FMCSA’s Safe Haven rule is perhaps one of the FMCSA’s most misunderstood and misquoted rules. Drivers often assume the rule applies to safe and available parking, but that’s not always the case.

Safe Haven rules ONLY apply to certain hazmat drivers. There is NO safe haven rule that allows non-hazmat drivers to exceed hours of service. The term, safe haven, applies to parking locations for hazmat drivers.

The Safe Haven rule is FMCSA section 397.5, ‘Attendance and surveillance of motor vehicles.’

What the rule covers (from FMCSA):

Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 (explosive) material must be attended at all times by its driver or a qualified representative of the motor carrier that operates it.
The rule do not apply to a motor vehicle which contains Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 material if all the following conditions exist:

(1) The vehicle is located on the property of a motor carrier, on the property of a shipper or consignee of the explosives, in a safe haven, or, in the case of a vehicle containing 50 pounds or less of a Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 material, on a construction or survey site; and

(2) The lawful bailee of the explosives is aware of the nature of the explosives the vehicle contains and has been instructed in the procedures which must be followed in emergencies; and

(3) The vehicle is within the bailee’s unobstructed field of view or is located in a safe haven.

(c) A motor vehicle which contains hazardous materials other than Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3, materials, and which is located on a public street or highway, or the shoulder of a public highway, must be attended by its driver. However, the vehicle need not be attended while its driver is performing duties which are incident and necessary to the driver’s duties as the operator of the vehicle.

(d) For purposes of this section—

(1) A motor vehicle is attended when the person in charge of the vehicle is on the vehicle, awake, and not in a sleeper berth, or is within 100 feet of the vehicle and has it within his/her unobstructed field of view.

(2) A qualified representative of a motor carrier is a person who—

(i) Has been designated by the carrier to attend the vehicle;

(ii) Is aware of the nature of the hazardous materials contained in the vehicle he/she attends

(iii) Has been instructed in the procedures he/she must follow in emergencies; and
(iv) Is authorized to move the vehicle and has the means and ability to do so.
(3) A safe haven is an area specifically approved in writing by local, State, or Federal governmental authorities for the parking of unattended vehicles containing Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 materials.

(e) The rules in this section do not relieve the driver from any obligation imposed by law relating to the placing of warning devices when a motor vehicle is stopped on a public street or highway.

Drivers often confuse the Safe Haven rule with the adverse conditions rule which applies to adverse weather and catastrophic wreck or traffic conditions, when a trip that might have taken you two hours on a regular day, may now take you four, causing you to struggle to find safe parking or reach your destination within your allowable driving hours.

Fortunately, the FMCSA has created an exemption that drivers may use for unforeseen weather delays.

According to FMCSA, “If unexpected adverse driving conditions slow you down, you may drive up to 2 extra hours to complete what could have been driven in normal conditions. This means you could drive for up to 13 hours, which is 2 hours more than allowed under normal conditions. Adverse driving conditions mean things that you did not know about when you started your run, like snow, fog, or a shut-down of traffic due to a crash. Adverse driving conditions do not include sit­uations that you should have known about, such as congested traffic during typical “rush hour” periods.

“Even though you may drive 2 extra hours under this exception, you must not drive after the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty.”

Adverse Driving Conditions 395.1(b)(1)

In case of any emergency, a driver may complete his/her run without being in violation of the provisions of the regulations in this part, if such run reasonably could have been completed absent the emergency.

If the following conditions apply, then you can drive for up to 2 additional hours ( 13 hours total, as long as you do not exceed your 14-hour rule. All Steps must be met- see step below.

1) You unexpectedly run into snow, sleet, fog or other bad weather or a highway covered with Snow or Ice or usual road or traffic condition

2)The person who dispatched your run was NOT and could not have been aware of those conditions

3) The run is one that you could have normally complete in 11 hours and

4) You are able to complete the (extended) run without exceeding the 14 or 70-hour limits

YOU CAN NOT use the adverse driving conditions exception for delays that YOU should have known about, such as congested traffic during rush hour.

When you use this exception, it’s a good idea to enter a note on your log indicting that you are using the exception (found in 395.1(b)(1) and why.

Follow this link for FMCSA guidance on the Safe Haven rule: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/section/397.5?guidance