FMCSA Declares Regional Emergency Due to Shutdown of Colonial Pipeline System

FMCSA Declares Regional Emergency Due to Shutdown of Colonial Pipeline System

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Legal Update Header On May 9, 2021, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a regional emergency declaration (the declaration) for 18 states in response to the unanticipated shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline system.

This unanticipated shutdown has caused (and is expected to continue to cause) fuel shortages in various parts of the Eastern United States.

Emergency Declaration

The declaration offers regulatory relief to commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers from Parts 390-399 of the FMCSA regulations while they provide direct assistance to support emergency relief efforts to affected states. The emergency declaration applies to Kentucky, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

This declaration will remain in effect until the end of the emergency or June 8, 2021, whichever is earlier.

Direct Assistance

The declaration applies to CMV carriers and drivers that provide direct assistance in support of emergency relief efforts. Direct assistance includes transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined petroleum products to affected states during the emergency. Direct assistance terminates when a CMV is:

  • Used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services not in support of emergency relief efforts related to the declaration; or
  • Dispatched to another location to begin operations in commerce.


Impact on Employers

This declaration provides temporary relief from various FMCSA regulations. CMV drivers and motor carriers should become familiar with eligibility requirements and obligations under the declaration.

Notable Restrictions

  • CMV drivers are not exempt from controlled substances and alcohol use and testing, licensing and insurance requirements, hazardous materials regulations, or size and weight regulations.
  • CMV carriers and drivers that are currently subject to out-of-service orders are not eligible for the relief.
  • A 10-hour break is required when drivers move from emergency relief efforts to normal operations, or when drivers provide 14 hours of relief efforts, or a combination of relief and normal operations.


This Legal Update is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice. © 2021 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.


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