May 14, 2021

ALERT: FMCSA has issued a Regional Emergency Declaration in Response to the Cyber Attack on the Colonial Pipeline

On May 7, 2021, the corporate computer system of the Colonial Pipeline Company, which supplies 45% of the East Coast’s fuel, was hit with ransomware, leading to a shutdown all pipeline operations.  In an effort to mitigate spikes in fuel prices, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued temporary hours of service exemptions for fleets and drivers transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products to 17 states and the District of Columbia.        

On May 9, 2021, under the authority of 49 CFR § 390.23, the FMCSA issued a Regional Emergency Declaration, providing an exemption from Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), including hours of service restrictions, in response to the shutdown of the Colonial pipeline system that has affected the supply of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum in the following “Affected States:” Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The Emergency Declaration only provides regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations when they are providing “direct assistance” to emergency relief efforts by transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined petroleum products into the Affected States during the emergency.  Such “direct assistance” terminates when a driver or commercial motor vehicle is used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services that are not in support of the emergency relief efforts, or when the motor carrier dispatches a driver or commercial motor vehicle to another location to begin operations in commerce.

Upon termination of direct assistance to emergency relief efforts related to the shutdown, the motor carrier and driver become subject to the requirements of 49 CFR Parts 390 through 399, except that a driver may return empty to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal work reporting location without complying with Parts 390 through 399. When a driver transitions from emergency relief efforts to normal operations, a 10-hour break is required when the total time a driver operates conducting emergency relief efforts, or a combination of emergency relief and normal operation, equals 14 hours.

All other applicable safety requirements remain in place and will be enforced by the FMCSA. Specifically, the Emergency Declaration does not provide any exemption from the requirements relating to alcohol and drug testing, commercial driver’s licensing, financial responsibility, the hazardous material, size and weight, or any other portion of the regulations not specifically authorized pursuant to 49 CFR § 390.23.

Motor carriers or drivers that are subject to an out-of-service orders are not eligible for the relief granted by this declaration until they have met the applicable conditions for rescission, and the orders have been rescinded by FMCSA.

The Emergency Declaration became effective immediately upon its issuance on May 9, 2021, and shall remain in effect until the end of the emergency, or until June 8, 2021, whichever is earlier.  The FMCSA will continually review the status of this Emergency Declaration and may take action to modify or terminate the Emergency Declaration sooner if conditions warrant.  A PDF of the Emergency Declaration
is linked here.

If you have any questions about these developments, or the transportation industry in general, please contact our Firm’s Transportation Practice Group leaders, Matt Mitchell,, or Bill Pentecost,