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FMCSA denies work-rule waiver for tank-truck company

WASHINGTON — A small-business trucking company failed to provide evidence to federal regulators that it could operate safely if granted a waiver from hours-of-service rules for up to four months.

Flat Top Transport, which hauls food-grade dry bulk products in pneumatic tank trucks, had petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for the exemption in August, explaining that temporary, emergency work-rule flexibility was needed to offset supply chain constraints that were causing supply shortages and factory shutdowns.

After analyzing the Holland, Michigan-based trucking company’s application, however, FMCSA determined that granting an exemption would decrease safety.

“Under [federal regulations], applicants are required to explain how they would achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to or greater than the level of safety that would be obtained by complying with the regulations,” FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson stated in denying the request. “In its application, Flat Top did not identify any alternative compliance measures that it would undertake to achieve an equivalent level of safety as complying with the existing HOS regulations.”

Hutcheson’s reasoning for denying the application is similar to FMCSA’s other recent denials of applications seeking HOS exemptions, including those filed by Ronnie Brown and Leland Schmitt. Schmitt told FreightWaves in November he intends to reapply for his exemption.

FMCSA’s denial of Flat Top’s request seemed to lean on comments filed by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, which told the agency that Flat Top’s request is “entirely without merit.”

Granting the carrier’s request “would significantly extend the amount of time Flat Top Transport’s drivers can operate,” which would increase their risk for fatigue, CVSA stated.

“Furthermore, supply chain delays do not constitute an emergency situation that would necessitate temporary relief from hours-of-service regulations,” the group asserted. “Emergency declarations exist to allow for operation beyond the current hours-of-service framework when there is an emergency that requires an expedited response. Short of an emergency declaration, there is not a reasonable need for relaxation of the hours-of-service requirements to the level requested in this application.”

FMCSA noted it “continues to monitor unique challenges motor carriers and drivers experience while transporting freight” and is working to ensure safety.

“Supply chain issues alone, however, do not provide a sufficient basis to exempt motor carriers transporting dry bulk food-grade products from the HOS regulations.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.