WASHINGTON — An especially cold winter has made it a challenge to move home heating fuel quickly enough to meet increased demand, particularly in Pennsylvania and other eastern states, but help could be on the way if the U.S. Senate follows the House’s lead.
The lower chamber on Tuesday voted unanimously to temporarily extend a suspension of the federal limit on the number of hours a fuel-tank trucker can drive. Sponsored by Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Blair, the short-term emergency declaration would allow Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to lift limits on a state-by-state basis for a month at a time after consulting with governors.
A previous 30-day suspension expires March 15, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Mr. Shuster introduced the bill — the Home Heating Assistance Through Transportation (HHEATT) Act — a week ago and the House moved quickly to approve it.
It is unclear when or if the Senate plans to take up the measure. A spokesman for Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not respond to inquiries Tuesday.
The aim is to make it easier for truckers to quickly get propane and other home heating fuel where they are needed.
“We still have many weeks of cold ahead of us, and until the warm weather returns, this propane and heating-fuel crisis remains a serious problem,” said Mr. Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Leaders of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association haven’t yet reviewed the details of the legislation but spokeswoman Nancy H. Wilkes said Mr. Shuster’s effort is welcome.
“The bill does give certainty for suppliers and expedites the ability for propane to reach homes that are running low or have already run out,” she said.
Hours-of-service limitations are meant to prevent driver fatigue and to make roads safer, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Without the waiver commercial freight truckers are allowed to drive up to 11 hours occurring within a 14-hour period and must have at least 34 consecutive hours off every seven days.
Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets.