FMCSA asked to waive HOS for fuel haulers to prevent gas shortages

This week, trade groups reached out to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) asking for regulatory relief for truck drivers hauling fuel.

On Wednesday, April 28, national trade groups that represent truck stops, gas stations, and convenience stores penned a letter to FMCSA Acting Administrator Meera Joshi asking for an extension to a waiver providing regulatory relief to drivers hauling certain supplies in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The nation-wide waiver was initially issued in March 2020 and has been renewed multiple times but is set to expire on May 31, 2021.

In Wednesday’s letter, the National Association of Truckstop Operators, Energy Marketers of America, Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America, and the National Association of Convenience Stores asked the FMCSA to again extend the waiver and this time to include fuel haulers in the list of drivers who are eligible for regulatory relief.

The previous waiver only applied to drivers hauling livestock; livestock feed; medical supplies and equipment; vaccines; safety and sanitation supplies like masks, gloves, and disinfectants; and food, paper products and groceries.

In the letter, the groups argued that the waiver was necessary because the pandemic had worsened the ‘driver shortage’ and that a lack of available tanker drivers could cause disruptions to the fuel supply chain.

From the letter:

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the national shortage of truck drivers. There are fewer drivers available due to illness and quarantine. Fewer candidates have been attending training schools because of limited seating capacity from social distancing. As a result, driver schools are graduating 30% to 40% fewer drivers, resulting in an even more depressed labor pool.

The COVID-19 crisis has shown the necessity of the HOS waiver for the delivery of fuel as indispensable to supporting public health and the infrastructure of this country. Without access to fuel, manufacturers would be unable to provide supplies to hospitals, businesses, and homes. Moreover, workers at essential businesses—including first responders and hospital workers—need fuel to get to their jobs. And, emergency response vehicles too need uninhibited access to fuel.

FMCSA should reestablish the transportation of fuel as an essential service under the HOS waiver for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency so that truckers can deliver fuel quickly to the sectors and people that depend on it most. Without the HOS waiver, the country’s infrastructure will remain at risk of fuel supply disruptions, and the worsening effects of the pandemic on the driver shortage will persist.

A recent CNN report predicted fuel shortages over the summer due to a shortage of tanker truck drivers combined with the “hoarding effect” that could follow even intermittent periods of unavailable fuel at gas stations.

Trucking groups like OOIDA have argued for years that there is no major shortage of truck drivers and that the real problem is with high driver turnover and stagnating driver wages.