Propane industry gets a break on hours-of-service regulations

December 11, 2018 By    
Propane 1075 placard. Photo by Joe McCarthy

Photo by Joe McCarthy

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration amended its hours-of-service regulations to include propane among the fuels excluded from the requirement to observe a 30-minute rest break when a driver exceeds the requirements of the short-haul criteria. We asked Sarah Reboli, director of regulatory affairs for the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), to explain some of the details surrounding the issue and what it means for the propane industry.

Q: What is the issue at hand?

A: Under U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) hours-of-service regulations, after eight hours of on-duty time, drivers must take a 30-minute rest break. Short-haul operations are exempt from this requirement, but if a driver inadvertently or accidentally exceeds the parameters of the short-haul operation, the driver must take a 30-minute rest break.

This would happen, for example, if a short-haul driver was on duty for more than 12 hours, or driving for more than 11 hours, because of the weather, or demand, or traffic. When this situation occurred, drivers would immediately have to take a 30-minute rest break, which would mean additional delay and, likely, frustration.

Q: What has changed?

A: In September 2017, the National Tank Truck Council petitioned the DOT for exemption from the requirement to take the 30-minute rest break in situations as described for drivers hauling certain petroleum products. The National Propane Gas Association supported the petition and added the request that the exemption should include propane short haulers.

In April 2018, the DOT granted the exemption, but did not include propane. After months of continuing to press the DOT, NPGA secured the correction notice to include propane among the limited number of short-haul petroleum products that are waived from the 30-minute rest break requirement when they inadvertently exceed the parameters of the short-haul exemption.

Q: How did the propane industry benefit?

A: This waiver, which is in place from April 2018 to April 2023, provides some flexibility for propane short-hauls. When the parameters of the short-haul exemption are exceeded it is often because of factors outside the control of the driver.

The additional stress and delays caused by having to take the 30-minute rest break were not offset by safety benefits for the driver or the environment. The waiver of the 30-minute rest break for propane short-haul drivers is an example of rolling back burdensome regulations without sacrificing safety.

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