UPDATED 2 p.m. EDT: Hurricane Sandy, one of the biggest storms ever to hit the United States, is hitting heavily populated areas such as New York City and Washington, D.C., this evening. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has declared a regional emergency, allowing for exception from some regulations for motor carriers providing emergency materials.
The national hurricane center said Hurricane Sandy was "expected to bring life-threatening storm surge flooding to the mid-Atlantic Coast, including Long Island Sound and New York Harbor." It's been dubbed a "Frankenstorm," because it's a rare, hybrid super storm created by an Arctic jet stream wrapping itself around a tropical storm.
FMCSA today declared a regional emergency that covers the states of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
This exempts commercial motor vehicle operations that are providing emergency materials and services from Parts 390 through 399 of the federal regulations. The exemption does not include controlled substance and alcohol use (Part 382), the commercial driver's license requirements (Part 383), the financial responsibility requirements (Part 387), or applicable size and weight requirements.
Numerous highway closures and restrictions are in effect in the region, including, but not limited to:
- New York, New Jersey and Delaware area bridges will be subject to truck or empty trailer bans due to high winds, and even closure altogether.
- The Tappan Zee Bridge in New York City has a reduced speed limit of 35 mph and trucks with empty trailers are restricted from crossing the bridge. If sustained winds reach 60 mph or other conditions warrant, the bridge will be closed to traffic in both directions.
- Truck traffic is banned from the Betsy Ross, Ben Franklin, Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry, Burlington Bristol & Tacony Palmyra bridges between Pennsylvania & New Jersey.
- The Holland Tunnel from New Jersey into Manhattan and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel from Manhattan into Brooklyn will close at 2 p.m. today because of flooding concerns.
- In Pennsylvania, speed limits have been reduced to 45 mph and certain types of vehicles are restricted in the southeast, south central, and eastern parts of the state, including parts of I-76, I-95, I-476, I-676, I-81, I-78, I-83, I-84, I-380, I-176, I-283, I-80 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, as well as a number of U.S. and state highways. Banned are Class 9 vehicles (Overweight and over-dimensional trucks), empty straight trucks, large combination vehicles (tandem trailers and doubles); and tractors hauling empty trailers.
- Connecticut at 11 a.m. EDT prohibited trucks from operating on limited access highways, and at 1 p.m., state highways will be closed to all non-emergency related vehicles.
- The Ports of New York and New Jersey are closed until further notice. The National Weather Service is predicting a near-record storm surge of 6-11 feet (above normal high tide levels) to Northern New Jersey, Long Island Sound and New York Harbor. This is more than 5 feet above what the area experienced during Hurricane Irene last year.
- Delaware officials ordered statewide "Level Two" driving restrictions beginning at 5:00 a.m. today, meaning no person can operate a motor vehicle on Delaware roadways other than essential personnel. 'Essential personnel' includes those employees necessary to maintain the core functions of government and maintain health and safety providing utility services, healthcare services, and food and fuel deliveries.
"We are asking all motorists and truckers to use appropriate caution and common sense," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. "There's no delivery, no errand that is worth putting yourself or others in danger."
Graves said with two storms converging over very populated areas, it was important for drivers to follow the directions of emergency management personnel over the course of the next few days.
"As a former governor, I know that government officials do not issue these warnings lightly, so if you're advised to avoid an area or evacuate, do so quickly and in an orderly fashion," Graves said.
Once the storms pass, Graves said the trucking industry would immediately begin working with officials on relief and recovery efforts.
New Jersey's governor has already declared a statewide State of Emergency, which allows relaxation of the 60/70 weekly hours of service rules for emergency deliveries of food, water, fuel and other essential supplies, as well as restoration of utility service.
For more information, ATA encourages people to visit Ready.gov or http://www.redcross.org/.
Also, for carriers interested in assisting in post-incident relief efforts, please visit the American Logistics Aid Network at http://www.alanaid.org/.