story via NAAA, image hazmatuniversity.com
After a five-year effort, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) granted NAAA’s request to propose a regulation allowing states to exempt commercial drivers from having to get a HazMat endorsement to transport 1,000 gallons or less of jet fuel (aviation-grade kerosene). The next steps to finalize this rule are for the FMCSA to post the proposed rule in the Federal Register allowing for either a 30- or 60-day public comment period, digest the comments, and either finalize or retract the rule pending comments. In conversations with the FMCSA yesterday, a final rule should be issued before year’s end. NAAA will be submitting comments in support of the rule and advocating that membership and others do the same.
Presently, drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) must obtain a HazMat endorsement to transport jet fuel. The FMCSA waived the HazMat endorsement for the transportation of 1,000 gallons or less of diesel fuel. NAAA, due to the need to augment the pool of available commercial drivers to aid aerial application businesses and due to the extremely similar chemical properties of diesel and jet fuel, petitioned for an amendment to 49 CFR 383.3(i) to have this exemption extended to jet fuel as well.
NAAA’s justification for the waiver from the hazardous materials endorsement stems from difficulties finding potential employees to transport commercial motor vehicles for agricultural aircraft operators due to the drivers leaving for year-round work once they receive their CDL and hazardous materials endorsement from a seasonal aerial application business. Another difficulty is finding Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) locations and scheduling testing times to take the knowledge and skill tests required for a CDL in rural areas, where most aerial application businesses are. The closest DMV could be several hundred miles away. NAAA cited American Trucking Association statistics to the FMCSA that there was a shortage of 80,000 drivers and that the bipartisan infrastructure bill Congress passed in the fall of 2021 takes a step toward allowing 18-year-olds to apply for a CDL, down from the current national age limit of 21—another indication that trucking shortages have significantly affected the agriculture sector.
The path toward the FMCSA granting NAAA’s request to propose a regulation has had its challenges. It had been held up at the Transportation Security Administration. Then it was initially denied, but NAAA persevered and showed that the similarities between jet fuel (aviation-grade kerosene) and diesel, which has the HazMat exemption for transporting limited quantities, were nearly identical. NAAA also provided information to the FMCSA showing that its request for a waiver would not jeopardize safety since aerial application operators with CDLs are driving on rural roads and for shorter distances, mostly less than 20 miles, to go from one satellite strip to another. They also drive when the weather is favorable to make applications, not in foggy, rainy and cold and snowy weather due to aerial applications not typically being made during these times.
NAAA greatly appreciates the work of board member Matt Woolard of Woolard Flying Service Inc. in Arkansas and Katherine Holmstrom, executive director of the Arkansas Agricultural Aviation Association, in seeking this waiver. NAAA will keep members aware of the proposed rule as it moves.