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Changes For Tanker Truck Drivers May Mean Relief At Gas Pumps

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The federal government is now allowing fuel tanker drivers to work longer hours and drive longer distances. It's supposed to speed up fuel deliveries, but some say it puts other drivers at risk.

In an effort to relieve the supply crunch, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that drivers who transport fuel are now exempt from new rules that limit drive time. It's supposed to cut down on motorists' wait at the pump.

"Carriers of gasoline, diesel, propane, those type of products, these drivers' hours have been extended," said Lt. Everett Clendenin with the state Highway Patrol. "So in North Carolina, drivers transporting these products can drive longer than they normally would."

All other truck drivers must follow recently released guidelines that limit drive time to 11 hours a day and mandate a 10-hour rest period. Truck driver Mel Gearhart said the new rule seems to be a dangerous double standard.

"It's my understanding, as I know right now, that they are exempt," he said. "But to me, it's not right because they can be forced to work as long as they want to. That's not the way it is supposed to be. Everybody needs rest."

The Highway Patrol said it will be watching for road-weary tanker drivers.

"If we some type of activity where a driver is driving dangerously, we will take the appropriate action," Clendenin said.

The exemption for fuel tankers is not permanent. It is only in effect until Oct. 26.


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