Dec. 14 – Under new authority granted by last year’s highway bill, the Federal Highway
Administration has formally opened the door to waivers and exemptions from federal safety regulations.
Until now, federal laws essentially required FHWA to prove, in advance, that a waiver or exemption would have absolutely no adverse effect on safety. But the law was relaxed with provisions in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) which allow FHWA to grant waivers or exemptions if there is a reasonable expectation that an
exemption would improve, or at least not jeopardize current safety performance.
Short-term waivers, good for up to three months, may be granted for specific, non-emergency events without prior public notice.
Requests for longer-term exemptions must be published in the Federal Register along with any relevant safety information. The public must be given time to comment.
Request for waivers or exemptions must be made in writing to the FHWA headquarters in Washington D.C. In addition to basic information such as name, place of business, etc. applicants must include a written statement describing the event or operation for which the waiver or exemption would be used, the regulation from which the applicant is
requesting relief, the estimated number of drivers and vehicles to be operated under the waiver or exemption, and an explanation as to how the waiver or exemption recipient would ensure no deterioration of safety.
Interim rules were published in the Dec. 8 Federal Register available on the Internet at www.access.gpo.gov. Comments are due in writing Feb. 8, 1998