FMCSA again grants hours of service flexibility, paper logs for fireworks haulers around July 4

Trucking news and briefs for Friday, Dec. 30, 2022:

FMCSA grants fireworks companies’ HOS/ELD exemptions

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted hours-of-service exemptions to 32 of the 45 member companies of the American Pyrotechnics Association in connection to Fourth of July celebrations.

The notice gives the 32 member companies relief from the 14-hour rule and the electronic logging device mandate during designated Independence Day periods. This exemption will be in effect from June 28 through July 8 in 2023 and 2024.

The exemptions allow drivers to exclude off-duty and sleeper berth time of any length from the calculation of the 14-hour limit, effectively opening up maximum split-sleeper flexibility, a long-sought goal of many owner-operators. Further, the exemption also allows drivers to use paper records of duty status in lieu of ELDs, FMCSA wrote in its notice in the Federal Register.

Similar exemptions for many fireworks haulers have been in place since 2005. This one follows FMCSA's denial of owner-operator Lee Schmitt's exemption request that, had it been granted, would have resulted in his operation being exempt from most all of the hours rules but for the daily 11-hour limit driving limit, another approach to greater operating flexibility than is achievable under current rules.

In its decision to disallow the fireworks exemption to 13 companies, FMCSA said it found 12 companies have vehicle and/or hazmat out-of-service rates higher than the national average as of Aug. 9, 2022. The 13th member company was excluded because the company does not have a hazardous materials safety permit.

[Related: What if you didn't need 10 off after 11 or 14 in the hours of service? This owner aims to find out

Service areas closing on NYS Thruway

The New York State Thruway Authority this week announced upcoming changes that will impact 11 service areas on the Thruway.

Effective Jan. 1, the Ramapo service area (located on I-87 South between exit 16 and exit 15A) and the Warners service area (I-90 west between exit 39 and exit 40) will close for construction. However, fuel services and truck parking will remain available at both locations during construction, according to the Thruway Authority.

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Both facilities will be entirely rebuilt and will include updated restaurant concepts, Taste NY food and drink products, outdoor seating, seasonal food trucks, playgrounds and pet walking areas, among other amenities.

To ensure continuity of services during construction, no two consecutive service areas in the same direction of travel will be closed for renovations at the same time.

Additionally, the nine remaining McDonald’s restaurants located within Thruway service areas will end operations on Jan. 1. These restaurants will be replaced at all locations with temporary dining options, including Applegreen C-Stores offering an assortment of hot food items as well as grab-and-go sandwiches and wraps, salads, coffee, snacks, drinks and more. The Applegreen C-Stores will be open to travelers 24 hours a day and seven days a week, and also feature Taste NY products and merchandise.

Select service areas may also include Sbarro, Subway or Burger King. Hours of operation may vary by location.

The changes are part of the project to redevelop the 27 Thruway service areas. 

Empire State Thruway Partners was awarded a contract to rebuild 23 of the 27 service area restaurant buildings and provide significant renovations and upgrades to the remaining four. Three new Thruway service areas have already reopened, including Indian Castle, Chittenango, and Junius Ponds. Eleven service areas will be closed for construction as of Jan. 1.

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