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DOT and 2012 Drought

Secretary LaHood Pledges to Work Closely with States

The Obama Administration is committed to help states and communities impacted by the summer’s devastating drought.

On Wednesday July 31, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood convened a call with states to listen and discuss the ways in which DOT can work with Governors and State Departments of Transportation to help communities impacted by the drought. Secretary LaHood was joined by John Porcari, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration and Greg Nadeau, Deputy Administrator for the Federal Highways Administration.

Issues raised during the call included emergency waivers of hours of service requirements and emergency waivers for Federal truck weight regulations.

When an Emergency is Declared

If an emergency has been declared in a state, certain Federal rules regulating large truck and bus operations for activities associated with providing emergency relief can be waived, such as hours of service (HOS) requirements. DOT can process an HOS waiver request in 7-14 days. If an emergency is declared by the Governor or appropriate official, the state automatically gets HOS relief; no application is needed. This authority can put more commercial drivers behind the wheel—driving large trucks needed to assist the farmers and ranchers in need.

The transportation bill President Obama signed in July provides a new authority for States to issue special permits for overweight vehicles and loads that can easily be dismantled or divided in an emergency (Section 1511 of MAP-21). The legislation makes the new special permits available beginning October 1, 2012.  The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is working to quickly develop guidance for States to support their permitting programs, and the way in which “relief supplies” are defined may provide states with a new tool to use for hauling heavy loads of grain, livestock, etc. for drought relief.  Guidance will be made publicly available for review and comment soon.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will also issue guidance in the days prior to the October 1 effective date, clarifying the applicability of the exemption to the hours of service regulations for farmers during planting and harvesting periods. This exemption will apply to any driver transporting agricultural commodities and/or farm supplies for agricultural purposes to and from certain locations within a 150 air-mile radius.

For more information on the drought and additional resources, please visit USDA's drought information page.

Updated: Tuesday, August 14, 2012