On Thursday, September 10, 2020 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an emergency declaration for Washington, Oregon, and California due to the current wildfires sweeping the West Coast, which will last the duration of the emergency or until October 19.
The Extension of the Emergency Declarations addresses ongoing emergency conditions creating a need for immediate transportation of supplies, goods, equipment, fuel and persons that are providing necessary relief.
The emergency declaration grants relief from Parts 390 through 399, suspending hours of service regulations for carriers and drivers providing direct assistance to the wildfire emergency region.
Low Air Quality Due To Wildfire Smoke
For the last 6 days, wildfire smoke stretches across most of the region and is expected to be hazardous or severe for the next few days.
The wildfire smoke is causing low visibility and poor air quality in the region, the worst in the world. It is important to wear masks if outside and to circulate air in the cab to prevent much of the smoke from entering the truck.
If ash is on the road, beware of harsh braking as it can be very slippery.
Emergency Declaration Restrictions & Limitations
Motor carriers and drivers must continue to comply with the following Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and conditions:
- 49 CFR § 392.2 related to the operation of a commercial motor vehicle in accordance with State laws and regulations, including compliance with applicable speed limits and other traffic restrictions.
- 49 CFR § 392.3 related to the operation of a commercial motor vehicle while a driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the motor vehicle.
- Motor carriers shall not require or allow fatigued drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle. A driver who informs a carrier that he/she needs immediate rest shall be given at least ten consecutive hours before the driver is required to return to service.
- 49 CFR §§ 392.80 and 392.82 related to the prohibitions on texting while driving and using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving.
- A motor carrier whose driver is involved in a crash while operating under this Extension of the Emergency Declarations must report any recordable crash within 24 hours, by phone or in writing, to the FMCSA Division Office where the motor carrier is domiciled. The carrier must report the date, time, location, driver, vehicle identification, and brief description of the crash.
- Drivers are required to comply with the portions of 49 CFR Part 395 related to the preparation, retention and accuracy of a driver’s record of duty status (RODS). Drivers are directed to note “Emergency Declaration” in the remarks section of the RODS to identify that their operation is in direct assistance to the emergency relief.
- Nothing in the this Extension of the Emergency Declarations shall be construed as an exemption from the controlled substance and alcohol uses and testing requirements (49 CFR Part 382), the commercial driver’s license requirements (49 CFR Part 383), the financial responsibility (insurance) requirements (49 CFR Part 387), the hazardous material regulations (49 CFR Parts 100-180), applicable size and weight requirements, or any other portion of the regulations not specifically exempted under 49 CFR § 390.23.
- Motor carriers or drivers currently subject to an out-of-service order are not eligible for the relief granted by this Extension of the Emergency Declarations until they have met the applicable conditions for its rescission and the order has been rescinded by FMCSA in writing.
- 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 emergency relief efforts or when the motor carrier dispatches a driver or commercial motor vehicle to another location to begin operations in commerce. (49 CFR § 390.23(b)). Upon termination of direct assistance to emergency relief efforts, the motor carrier and driver are 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 is moving 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 operations, equals 14 hours.
Be sure to monitor traffic and road closures on your route that may increase your travel time.
There may be closures due to normal construction, as well as closures related to wildfires that may be meant to direct you away from high risk areas.
If driving through Portland, Oregon, a nine-day closure of the northbound span of the I-5 Interstate Bridge began Saturday, Sept. 12, with crews replacing mechanical parts that help lift and lower the I-5 bridge.