By Zlati Meyer
Gov. Rick Snyder has declared an energy emergency in Michigan, citing concerns about gasoline supplies as one of the biggest driving weekends of the year approaches.
Executive Order 2016-10 suspends state and federal regulations for the number of hours and consecutive days for fuel truck drivers, so they'll be able to drive longer -- and therefore farther -- to load up on gas.
Driving this is the West Shore petroleum pipeline shutdown in Wisconsin, which supplies six Green Bay terminals. Trucks leave from six terminals there to service gas stations in the Upper Peninsula.
"The shutdown of the pipeline has resulted in longer driving distances, wait times, and working hours for gasoline and other motor fuels transporters, causing drivers to reach maximum weekly driving and on-duty limits more quickly than normal," the executive order says, adding that the shutdown is "creating temporary shortages and shipment delays that may potentially impact the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of the citizens of Michigan who depend on these products."
In addition to the Wisconsin issue, which began March 10, Snyder pointed to the temporary Marathon refinery shutdown in Detroit and the Alberta wildfires as reasons why the gas supplies are tight.
Declaring an energy emergency is "pretty uncommon," according to GasBuddy.com senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan.
"This whole thing is about supply and demand. Presently, demand is outpacing supply in Michigan," he said. "The governor is saying, 'If you gas stations need to send trucks to refineries in Chicago, I'm making this declaration, so you don't have to worry about driving hours.'... A lot of gas stations don't have the ability to go outside the normal area, if those stations run dry."
Under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Michigan rules, which are now temporarily suspended, motor-fuel truckers must have 10 consecutive hours off before they start their shifts. They are allowed to be on shift for 14 hours, 11 of which may be spent driving, according to Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton. When drivers go to or from other states, they are allowed to drive for extended hours, as long as they carry a copy of the emergency order with them.
She said this is the first time Snyder has declared an energy emergency for gasoline since he took office. The most recent energy emergency for propane was in the winter of 2014, because of shortages in the U.P.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared an energy emergency there on May 6, because of the shutdown of the pipeline that stretches from Milwaukee to Green Bay. Truckers transporting petroleum products also had state and federal rules suspended there.
Friday marks the start of Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start to the summer travel season.
According to DeHaan, pipeline and refinery maintenance is usually done in the spring, ahead of the summer driving season. Most work wraps up in late May, but this year, it;s going to mid- to late June -- just as driving picks up.
Snyder's executive order is for drivers transporting gasoline "and other transportation fuels." It doesn't allow employers to force tired drivers to continue behind the wheel nor does it suspend the rules regarding controlled substance and alcohol use and testing, commercial driver's license requirements and size and weight.
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