Americans depend on electricity to power their homes and businesses. Providing safe and reliable electric service is the number-one priority of electric companies. However, sometimes power outages are simply unavoidable. When power outages or other emergencies occur, electric company service crews play a vital role in responding quickly to restore power. Just like firefighters and police officers, electric service crews work for the benefit of public safety.
To perform their work, these crews must be available to work at any time, operating service vehicles that are equipped with specialized tools and equipment designed to restore service promptly.
In 2005, Congress passed and the President signed legislation that exempts drivers of utility service vehicles from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. This law also prohibits states from enacting or enforcing HOS rules against utilities.
The current FMCSA HOS regulations are available on the FMCSA web site. According to the regulations, “utility service vehicle” means any commercial motor vehicle:
- Used in the furtherance of repairing, maintaining, or operating any structures or any other physical facilities necessary for the delivery of public utility services, including the furnishing of electric, gas, water, sanitary sewer, telephone, and television cable or community antenna service;
- While engaged in any activity necessarily related to the ultimate delivery of such public utility services to consumers, including travel or movement to, from, upon, or between activity sites (including occasional travel or movement outside the service area necessitated by any utility emergency as determined by the utility provider); and
- Except for any occasional emergency use, operated primarily within the service area of a utility's subscribers or consumers, without regard to whether the vehicle is owned, leased, or rented by the utility.