USDOT Details Ongoing Efforts to Help Mitigate Potential Impacts of the Colonial Pipeline Disruption

May 11, 2021: U.S Department of Transportation

The Biden-Harris Administration is continually assessing the impact of the ongoing Colonial Pipeline incident on fuel supplies for the East Coast and is monitoring reported shortages in parts of the Southeast. This ongoing effort includes evaluating resources the federal government can mobilize to mitigate potential impacts.

As part of this process, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has started the work needed to enable consideration of a temporary and targeted waiver of the Jones Act.

USDOT’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) initiated a survey of Jones Act-qualified vessels to begin the process of evaluating what assets are available in the Jones Act fleet to carry petroleum products within the Gulf, and from the Gulf up the Eastern Seaboard. This step is being taken to determine whether there is sufficient capacity on Jones Act-qualified vessels to carry the product and to determine if a waiver is warranted. Responses have been requested today.

The Maritime Administration's role in the Jones Act waiver process is to determine the availability of Jones Act vessels to carry the products for which a waiver is sought. Authority to receive requests for and to approve waivers to the Jones Act belongs to the Department of Homeland Security.

Over the weekend the USDOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it was taking steps to create more flexibility for motor carriers and drivers. FMCSA issued a temporary hours of service exemption that applies to those transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined petroleum products to 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.

Today FMSCA is adding West Virginia to the list of states covered, bringing the total to 18 states covered. USDOT’s top priority is safety, and while current circumstances dictate providing industry flexibility, FMCSA will work closely with its state and industry partners to monitor driver work hours and conditions for the duration of the exemption.

In addition, USDOT’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is canvassing rail operators to determine their capacity to help transport fuel from ports inland and if there are additional steps FRA could do to help them increase capacity to do this.  They are also engaging industry to identify trends indicating capacity pressures.   

USDOT’s FMCSA and Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) are tracking two states (GA, NC) that have issued emergency declarations, which have include weight waivers for trucks on State roadways.  Other states are considering similar action.  FMCSA and FHWA are working with the full list of potentially effected States to share information and best practices and try to harmonize and align their efforts.

USDOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) assisted Colonial Pipeline’s efforts to get Line 4 up and running yesterday on a manual basis and is continuing to support efforts to ensure safe movement of fuels manually, while concurrent efforts to restore the system’s operation continues.

Since the weekend, USDOT has been conducting outreach to gather information on how USDOT and our agencies can assist. To date, USDOT senior officials have talked to officials from multiple states and localities. Agency staff have also been in touch with labor, safety, and industry groups. Outreach is ongoing.

This situation continues to develop and the Department of Transportation remains committed to assisting wherever it is needed.