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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Questions and Answers: COLONIAL PIPELINE EMERGENCY – FMCSA/FHWA – MAY 11, 2021




Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration / Federal Highway Administration  

May 12, 2021

Q:  What does this announcement mean?
A:   It allows the identified States that have existing major disaster declarations in place to increase weight limits on their Interstate roads.

Q:  What can States do to increase weight limits for trucks to help with fuel shortages?
A:  State have a range of legal authorities, and we are encouraging them to make use of these.  For example: 

  • States are issuing Emergency declarations and giving their state DOTs broad authority to allow overweight vehicles to operate on roads other than the Interstate System.
  • States issue permits for overweight trucks on specific routes to ensure those locations – particularly bridges on these routes – have the capacity to safely handle the increased weights.
  • Some States are issuing additional relief, such as waivers for fuel trucks to allow them to bypass State weigh stations and inspection stations. 

Q: Why can’t States raise the weight limits on Interstates for fuel trucks?
A:  They can, but only in certain circumstances.

  • Federal law imposes weight limitations on the Interstate System.  There are some exceptions to the limitations, but most do not apply here.
  • However, one such exception allows States to issue special permits for vehicles and loads that are delivering relief supplies when:
    1. The President declares the emergency is a “major disaster” under the Stafford Act; and
    2. The State permits are issued in accordance with State laws and regulations; and 
    3. The permits are for delivery of essential services, in this case gasoline and other fuel.
  • By statute, the State’s authority to issue special permits expires 120 days after the President issues the major disaster declaration. 

Q:  Does the FMCSA Declaration issued on May 9 include ethanol?
A:  Yes.

Last updated: Wednesday, May 12, 2021