Shorter automatic emergency HOS exemptions: FMCSA petitioned to reconsider

Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023:

Groups petition FMCSA to reconsider emergency exemption clarification

After the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration finalized a rule in October to narrow the scope of regulatory relief granted to carriers automatically with declaration of an emergency, a number of groups have filed petitions for reconsideration with FMCSA asking the agency to reconsider the rulemaking. 

In FMCSA’s clarification, applicable emergencies can be declared by a U.S president, state governor or the agency itself, and are defined in 49 Code of Federal Regulations 390.5 and 390.5(t). Presidentially-declared emergencies remain the same, creating a 30-day exemption from a wide swath of regs, 49 CFR parts 390 through 399. Yet other regs exemptions are now narrowed to half that time, and streamlined to automatically encompass just the hours of service drive-time limits.

Originally, the agency envisioned limiting the amount of time for automatic relief to just five days in most instances. With the final rule, the agency cited concerns over increased frequency and severity of weather-related disasters nationwide with climate change as justification for regional relief timelines longer than initially proposed.   

The new rules on emergency declarations took effect Dec. 12.

Groups petitioning FMCSA to reconsider the changes include the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), Montana Department of Transportation, National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the North Dakota's Governor's Office, and the Western Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (WASHTO).

[Related: The new out-of-service criteria: What owner-ops need to know]

CVSA requested that FMCSA reconsider the duration of automatic regulatory relief revised from the proposed 5 days to 14 days in the final rule. In comments filed on the final rule, CVSA suggested FMCSA might eliminate “any set time period and consider instead allowing the issuing entity the authority to set the duration as they see fit to adequately address the length of the emergency.”

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The Montana DOT and WASHTO each requested that FMCSA increase the automatic exemption period back to 30 days or for the duration of the emergency, whichever proves to be longer.

A joint petition filed by NPGA/OOIDA specifically stated that FMCSA fails to address the fundamental question of whether the agency has the authority to issue declarations in advance of an emergency. In comments filed on the initial proposal to reduce the automatic exemption to five days, OOIDA said the move would "obstruct the trucking industry’s ability to operate effectively in communities impacted by the emergency. In our experience, the current 30-day period provides sufficient time to deliver emergency assistance without negatively impacting safety."

The office of North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum asked that FMCSA continue to allow each state's governor to institute regulatory relief based on a regional declaration of an emergency and issue the 30-day relief period from all of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in parts 390-399, not just the hours of service.

[Related: FMCSA narrows 'emergency' relief to HOS regs]

Great Dane recalling nearly 350 trailers over axle issue

Great Dane Trailers is recalling approximately 346 model year 2024 Champion trailers in which the axle spindle nut may have been improperly tightened, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents.

A loose axle spindle nut can allow the wheel to detach from the trailer, increasing the risk of a crash, the recall states.

Great Dane will inspect and tighten the axle spindle nut as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed Feb. 10. Owners can contact Great Dane customer service at 1-877-369-3493. NHTSA’s recall number is 23V-839.

[Related: W9s, T800s, other models recalled over seat belt issue]

International dealer expands in Texas

Holt Truck Centers recently announced the grand opening of a new facility in Wichita Falls, Texas.

This growth comes after the organization expanded its International and Idealease dealerships into Oklahoma in 2021 and Tyler, Texas, earlier this year. The new facility in Wichita Falls will bring Holt Truck Centers to a total of 15 locations across Texas and Oklahoma.

"As an International dealer, we look forward to bringing innovation grounded in a rich history to Wichita Falls," said Brandon Acosta, vice president of Holt Truck Centers. "We understand the work our truck customers do every day and their need to have top-quality products, solutions and support to move our community forward. This expansion helps ensure we can meet their needs where they are.”

Holt Truck Centers provides service, rebuilds, and parts for all makes and models of on-highway trucks. Holt Truck Centers sells new on-highway trucks, trailers and buses, as well as used on-highway trucks and trailers, the company added.

Operations Manager Derek Girouard, a long-time Wichita Falls resident, will oversee the new location with the assistance of Acosta and his team of technicians, parts specialists and customer service reps.

The new location will have approximately 12 employees with six service bays across 12,000 sq.-ft. Holt Truck Centers is an authorized dealer of IC Bus, Isuzu commercial trucks, Ottawa, Hi-Vac and Crane Carrier specialty vehicles. The new facility is located at 1811 Central East Freeway, Wichita Falls.