By Heather Richards
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CASPER — With low stocks of propane in some parts of the state and cold weather headed to Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon has lifted restrictions on the number of hours truckers can be on the road for propane deliveries.
Cold days in recent weeks drew down the stock of propane, a problem that neighboring states, including Montana and South Dakota, have also faced by lifting trucking rules.
Under the emergency rules, which will be in place for 20 days or until the emergency is over, drivers can stay on the road past the 11 hours of driving time, 14 hours on duty, that they are capped at now. Should weather slow down travel, drivers making propane deliveries from out of state or within the state can extend their time on the road.
The governor said in a statement Monday that he didn’t make the call lightly.
“I put these emergency rules in place in recognition of how harmful it would be to not be able to heat your home,” Gordon stated. “I have also asked WYDOT to meet with the trucking industry to find ways to make sure this order is rarely needed again in the future.”
Wyoming Highway Patrol’s commercial carrier manager, Lt. Dan Wyrick, said the biggest concern under the emergency rules is driver safety. It’s especially concerning given the number of highway incidents this year, he said.
It will be the driver’s discretion whether to continue driving, but drivers are instructed to pull over or stop at a hotel if they become fatigued, Wyrick said.
Driving tired is a serious risk on Wyoming’s roads. In a recent survey by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, trucking industry drivers noted that despite a culture of safety promoted by their employer, fatigue and the desire to meet delivery deadlines compromised safety.
Trucking is the leading cause of death on the job in the state. Last year, 33 percent of fatalities were associated with a car crash on roads or highways and another 13 percent were from a vehicle hitting a pedestrian or crashing on a work site.
Lifting the rules on truckers’ hours for propane delivery is unusual for Wyoming, and a governor’s authority to do so is limited in federal law, Wyrick said.
In this case the safety rules on the road came second to the concerns over heating homes and businesses during cold weather — a cause allowable in federal statute. Wyoming governors have only allowed the exemptions a handful of times.
A request made in 2015 under then-Gov. Matt Mead was denied because the instigating factor was industry need rather than home heating, Wyrick said.
The emergency rules in place for the next few weeks started with a request from the propane delivery sector. Safety officials from Blakeman Propane notified the governor’s office of the potential need, concerned by the declining amount of propane the company had on hand, the upcoming cold weather and similar low stockpiles in other states.