Colonial Pipeline, a major delivery system spanning from the U.S. Gulf Coast to the East Coast for transportation fuels, halted operations. - Illustration: EIA

Colonial Pipeline, a major delivery system spanning from the U.S. Gulf Coast to the East Coast for transportation fuels, halted operations.

Illustration: EIA

The federal government says trucks carrying fuel in states affected by the Colonial Pipeline shutdown are allowed to carry overweight loads in an effort to address the fuel supply chain crisis.

The U.S. Department of Transportation on May 12 announced that the East Coast states affected by the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline can allow transport of overweight loads of gasoline and other fuels on interstate highways. Previous declarations of “major disaster” issued by the president within the past 120 days allow states covered by those declarations to take this action, as fuel shortages have developed after a cyberattack forced a shutdown of the pipeline.

Although the Colonial Pipeline announced late May 12 that it was beginning the restart process after a six-day shutdown, it will take time to refill fuel supplies. The shortages have been made worse by panic-buying and a shortage of fuel-truck drivers. In Charlotte, North Caroline, about 70% of stations were out of gas, according to a May 13 CNN report.

Each state must continue to follow its own procedures for issuance of special permits authorizing the loads, but the added flexibility lawfully permits these trucks to run on the Interstate Highway System and other federal highways, DOT officials said in a press release.

For instance, at the request of New Jersey Motor Truck Association and Fuel Merchants Association, the New Jersey DOT issued a waiver to increase weight on fuel trucks by up to 10% or 88,000 pounds, noting that an overweight permit is needed.

The previous presidential declarations created this authority for up to 120 days. Given the declarations’ varied dates of issuance, that period will expire at different points for the affected states between now and early September. The first state whose 120-day period will expire is Maryland, on June 4. The last is Virginia, on Sept. 7.

The 10 states covered are Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. All these states are already covered under the separate Emergency Declaration that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued on May 9, which grants truck drivers making emergency fuel deliveries in areas affected by the pipeline disruption relief from the federal hours-of-service limits and certain other safety regulations.

Pipeline Shutdown Leads to Gas Shortages

On the East Coast and Southeast, demand for gasoline is soaring, and gas stations are facing shortages as drivers rush to fill their tanks, in what CNN describes as “panic buying.” Photos on social media and on news broadcasts show long lines at gas stations, with people filling up not only approved gasoline containers, but also non-approved makeshift containers such as plastic tubs and even plastic bags.

At several truck stops, like Pilot Flying J, diesel fuel was the only fuel left available at stations as of the evening of May 11. In a May 12 update on Twitter, it said, "Due to the ongoing Colonial Pipeline situation and increased demand across the Southeast, select locations in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina are experiencing outages. Our fuel drivers and logistics team are doing everything they can to keep resupplying fuel to these affected regions."

Gas availability is intermittent at others, Love’s officials said in a tweet.

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