Drivers no longer need licenses, drug tests, working trucks… – Dakota Free Press

Kristi Noem interrupted her presidential campaign to govern for a bit on Saturday. But it’s interesting that she used it to engage in a bizarre assertion of state authority over federal law.

Executive Decree 2021-10 says South Dakota faces “extremely low stocks and shortages of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and ethyl alcohol.” Strange – every gas station I’ve stopped at in the past few days has allowed me to refuel for the regular price, but I haven’t driven West River lately, where Noem says the shortage is the more important. Jet fuel stocks are at or above the five-year average, but delivery systems are struggling to come back from the depths of the pandemic to cope with the resumption of demand. To remedy this perverse supply chain, Governor Noem declared a state of emergency and declared that truckers transporting petroleum products in South Dakota are not subject to the federal motor carrier safety regulations codified in 49 CFR Parts 390 to 399. Oil truckers must still have licenses and insurance and follow rules about height, weight and drug / alcohol use, but, according to the press release summary from Noem, the drivers do not have to respect the limits of their hours of service.

I’d like to know from my legally astute readers if a state can declare an emergency and throw federal laws and regulations out the window. But assuming Governor Noem has such emergency authority, his order appears to be way beyond the driving time limits:

  1. §390.6 prohibits trucking bosses from coercing drivers into breaking motor carrier rules and provides a complaints process for drivers who feel coerced.
  2. §390.36 prohibits carriers from harassing their drivers.
  3. §390.39 exempts covered farm vehicles from commercial driver’s license rules and requirements for the consumption and testing of controlled substances and alcohol that EO 2021-10 does not suspend. By suspending this rule, OE 2021-10 subjects farm truck drivers to more federal regulations. So put down the beer, Farmer Joe….
  4. §390.201 requires motor carriers to register with the federal government and display their US Department of Transportation numbers on their vehicles.
  5. §391.11 drivers must be at least 21 years old, have a working knowledge of English and hold a valid CDL.
  6. §391.15 disqualifies drivers from operating large rigs if they lose their CDL, drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.04 or more, refuse a drug test, transport or possess or use a controlled substance of Annex I, leave the scene of an accident or commit a crime with their trucks.
  7. §392.6 prohibits carriers from scheduling trips that would force drivers to exceed the speed limit.
  8. §392.7 requires every commercial motor vehicle to be equipped with brakes, steering, lights, tires, horn, wipers, mirrors, hitches and emergency equipment functional.
  9. §392.63 says you can’t tow a bus with passengers on board.
  10. §392.64 forbidden to transport people in locked trailers (human trafficking, anyone?).
  11. §392.71 forbids fuzzbusters.
  12. §392.80 prohibits texting while driving a semi.
  13. §392.82 prohibits the use of cell phones while driving a semi-trailer.

I’m not even a third of the federal rules Noem has just suspended, and already we can see that, at least until August 16, Noem has overturned all kinds of safety rules which, far from hampering the delivery of fuel, ensure gasoline and diesel reach their destinations safely with everyone on the highway. Her efforts to make it seem like she’s taking “quick action” shows that she hasn’t actually taken the time to read the rules and come up with a narrowly focused solution to the problem she claims to exist.


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