Federal regulators will consider a temporary exemption from driver work rules to help a small-business trucking company provide emergency relief to customers threatened by shutdowns.
Holland, Michigan-based Flat Top Transport, which specializes in hauling food-grade dry bulk products in pneumatic tank trucks, applied in July for the four-month hours-of-service (HOS) exemption from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The agency plans to consider the application as part of a 30-day public comment period, according to a notice scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday.
“Due to railroads being limited and a truck driver shortage … the time constraints of hours of service are causing many food-producing factories to shut down until the products arrive,” Flat Top Transport co-owners Jason and Jeanette Mayrand stated in their application.
“We are seeking a temporary exemption from hours of service for immediate and emergency delivery of dry bulk food-grade products to locations that supply stores and distribution centers nationally,” they stated, with a focus on food-grade flour, cornmeal and salts used to make cereals, baked goods, canned goods and in meat processing.
A temporary HOS exemption, they said, will “help these food producers catch up to an already decreased stock due to the effects of COVID.”
While Flat Top Transport’s exemption request does not extend beyond the 10 trucks owned by the company, Jason Mayrand told FreightWaves that he has been working with the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) and North American Millers’ Association (NAMA) for an exemption that would apply to the entire sector of food-grade truck haulers.
“Livestock haulers have hours-of-service exemptions, but our product is sensitive as well,” Mayrand said. “If we can get some kind of relief on hauling loads, a couple of hours more per day [before running out of legal hours] would mean a lot for our customers.”
Neither NTTC nor NAMA were immediately available to comment.
Mayrand also said the types of food products he moves do not qualify as exempt under the 50-state emergency HOS waiver that has been in effect since March 2020. The latest extension to that national exemption expires Wednesday.
“We were told by state police that only food that’s already been packaged and is moving to distribution centers or store shelves directly are covered by that exemption, so I figured I’d apply directly to FMCSA to try to get covered,” Mayrand said.
The FMCSA has so far received over 1,000 comments on a recent application from a company truck driver seeking a similar exemption — for five years, and exclusively for himself — citing both safety and economic reasons, with commenters expressing a mix of support and opposition to the request.