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Governor Suspends Federal Trucking Rules: Drivers No Longer Need Licenses, Drug Tests, Functional Trucks…

Kristi Noem interrupted her Presidential campaign to do a little governing on Saturday. But interestingly, she used it to engage in a strange assertion of state authority over federal law.

Executive Order 2021-10 claims that South Dakota faces “extremely low inventories and outages of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and ethyl alcohol.” Strange—every gas station I’ve stopped at in the last few days let me fill my tank for the regular price, but then I haven’t driven West River lately, where Noem says the shortage is most prominent. Jet fuel inventories are at or above the five-year average, but delivery systems are having trouble snapping back from the depths of pandemic to keep up with recovering demand. To address this kinky supply chain, Governor Noem has declared a state of emergency and says that truckers hauling petroleum products in South Dakota are not subject to the federal motor carrier safety regulations codified in 49 CFR Parts 390 to 399. Petroleum truckers still have to have licenses and insurance and follow rules on size, weight, and drug/alcohol use, but, according to Noem’s press release summary, drivers don’t have to follow limits on their hours of service.

I would love to hear from my legally astute readers whether a state can declare an emergency and chuck federal laws and regulations out the window. But assuming Governor Noem has such emergency authority, her order appears to nix a lot more than drive-time limits:

  1. §390.6 prohibits trucking bosses from coercing drivers into violating motor carrier rules and provides a complaint process for drivers who feel so coerced.
  2. §390.36 prohibits carriers from harassing their drivers.
  3. §390.39 exempts covered farm vehicles from commercial driver’s license rules and controlled substance and alcohol use and testing requirements that EO 2021-10 does not suspend. By suspending this rule, EO 2021-10 subjects farm truck drivers to more federal regulations. So put down the beer, Farmer Joe….
  4. §390.201 requires motor carriers to register with the feds and display their US Department of Transportation Numbers on their vehicles.
  5. §391.11 requires drivers to be at least 21 years old, have a working knowledge of English, and hold a valid CDL.
  6. §391.15 disqualifies drivers from running big rigs if they lose their CDL, drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.04 or more, refuse a drug test, transport or possess or use any Schedule I controlled substance, leave the scene of an accident, or commit a felony with their trucks.
  7. §392.6 prohibits carriers from scheduling runs that would require drivers to break the speed limit.
  8. §392.7 requires every commercial motor vehicle to have working brakes, steering, lights, tires, horn, wipers, mirrors, coupling devices, and emergency gear.
  9. §392.63 says you can’t tow a bus with passengers on board.
  10. §392.64 prohibits hauling people in locked trailers (human trafficking, anyone?).
  11. §392.71 bans fuzzbusters.
  12. §392.80 bans texting while driving a semi.
  13. §392.82 bans using hand-held phones while driving a semi.

I’m not even a third of the way through the federal rules Noem just suspended, and already we can see that, at least until August 16, Noem has overturned all sorts of safety rules that, far from inhibiting the delivery of fuel, ensure that that gasoline and diesel get to their destination safely along with everyone else on the highway. Her effort to look like she’s taking “swift action” shows she actually didn’t take the time to read the rules and craft a narrowly targeted solution to the problem she alleges exists.


  1. SAM@2 2021-07-18 09:23

    Nice to have a Gov. with common sense. The same people who are complaining about this are in many cases the same one that want pipelines shut down. Watertown stations are having to haul gas from Fargo since the local pipeline can not supply them

    The root cause of this is liberals who want to shut the oil industry down, while going to protest in cars with combustion engines.

  2. John 2021-07-18 09:34

    Jet fuel distribution shortage? Really? Fuel distribution shortage? Really?
    noem should have cancelled Ellsworth’s US Air Force bomber exercise last week.
    noem should have cancelled the annual national guard puking pup summer drill in the Black Hills.

    noem is worse than palin, bachman, greene, boebert, and lindsey graham.

    Grab your popcorn when the state AG rushes to defend truckers busted for safety violations by the feds.
    Maybe the feds will withhold federal transportation funding because the state refuses to support federal law.

  3. grudznick 2021-07-18 10:13

    Mr. H, how is it a fellow who drives a Prius or a Bug must stop multiple times at a fuel station in just the last few days, where they allied you to fill up at the regular price?

  4. Guy 2021-07-18 10:40

    It is very strange indeed Cory because there is NO fuel shortage West River. I live in Spearfish and I’ve had no problem filling my car up.

  5. Guy 2021-07-18 10:48

    If there truly was a fuel shortage in West River I would have seen long lines at the pumps here and I haven’t. There is NO fuel shortage in the Black Hills or West River.

  6. Lottie 2021-07-18 11:00

    Can anyone seriously see KN as president? Dang, another wild Trump personality coming up if she won.
    Its just too much. No one is short of fuel except her.

  7. Loren 2021-07-18 11:52

    Groan… another Kristi-ism that is about to make national news. SD is getting famous, and NOT in a good way.

  8. mike from iowa 2021-07-18 13:53

    If uninsured truckers kill someone, who pays the bills? I seriously doubt Noem Nothing gets away with cancelling federal regs on a whim. Another stoopid move by America’s dumbest guv.

  9. Arlo Blundt 2021-07-18 16:14

    Well..I think the Governor is trying to free up the Highway Patrol personnel usually at weigh stations so that she has adequate boots on the ground at the Sturgis Bike Rally…..and assure that there is enough gas in the supply chain to get the miscreants out of state after they’ve spent their money on booze, whites, and women.”Feel Free Again in South Dakota”.

  10. Adam 2021-07-18 16:50

    South Dakota is weighed down by feral culture – can’t understand why safety standards ever existed to begin with. Most SD suburbanites self- identify as ‘rural’ because they don’t even understand who they are and/or English language.

  11. John M Sweet 2021-07-18 17:32

    Just traveled through SD for three days last week, two days in the Black Hills. No gas shortage anywhere. Must be a shortage of motel rooms given the price. But Montana is worse for motel prices. $340 for Motel 6 in Bozeman and $400 for Microtel.

  12. Aaron 2021-07-18 18:34

    It’s a perfect setup for the feds to step in and correct her so she can then go on Fox News and claim Biden’s picking on her and hates the “freedumb” she stands for

  13. Porter Lansing 2021-07-18 19:13

    You can do almost anything in government, for a while. The court’s move so slow the damage is done before anything legal is enacted.

    Another case of processes, written by wealthy, white males, to benefit wealthy, white males and their white, male children are the problem.

    The laws are mostly just and fair. The processes to administer those laws are highly biased toward wealthy, white males.

  14. Richard Schriever 2021-07-18 19:38

    Federal DOT rules are enforced by the SD HP. No Federal DOT officers around – at all.

  15. Richard Schriever 2021-07-18 19:40

    Arlo and Arron have the angles covered here.

  16. Richard Schriever 2021-07-18 19:42

    Another consideration – since she is only suspending the rules for people driving the most explosive of substances – truck bombing something?

  17. Guy 2021-07-18 21:56

    Based on almost the past 12 years of South Dakota political history, I think Kristi Noem is going to continue to manipulate and get away with all of these political games she plays. She’s actually much smarter than most people on this blog want to admit. Why? Because she keeps getting away with playing these games while the majority of people in this state continue to support her. She is no “idiot” as some suggest. If she was an idiot she would not have lasted as long as she has. She’s been in office almost twice as long as Stephanie Herseth was. I’ve always maintained that she knows how to manipulate everyone to her benefit – that is one smart person – as is evidenced by her political staying power in this state. Do I like it? No. I think you all know where I stand as far as Noem is concerned. But, I do not see anything changing and at this point, I sure do not see the other side even bothering to put up an honest, credible, smart, reasonable and strong candidate to take her on next year. It’s getting very late in the game, folks. I’ve offered my advice on who and what kind of candidate is needed to successfully take her on. In the meantime all the blogging in the world – along with all of our complaining, including mine – will not defeat Kristi Noem. In the meantime, the very smart, calculating and manipulative Kristi Noem – a Governor who knows exactly what she’s doing in every one of her political moves – will prevail. She’s probably even laughing at us if she even cares: “they’ll never get me, I’m always 2 steps ahead of everyone of them when they think they are 2 steps ahead of me, ha, ha, ha.”

  18. Whitless 2021-07-18 22:15

    The maximum length of the executive order is 30 days unless extended by the FMCSA. See:
    Does an emergency exist? Are some of the temporary exemptions unnecessary and were granted as a favor to a motor transport carrier? As was stated above, if evidence existed to challenge all or part of the executive order, a court challenge would most be likely untimely since the executive order expires no later than August 16.

  19. Jessica Moe 2021-07-19 02:33

    This is absolutely asinine, her fake “declaration” absolutely does NOT supercede FMCSA laws. Any truck that would knowingly follow her arbitrary rules would still be in violation of numerous safety violations that could cause the truck massive fines, an increase in insurance rates, as well as their authority to operate. This is not only dangerous to the industry, but could ultimately be the ruin of a small Owner/Operator business.

  20. John Dale 2021-07-19 03:39

    This is a fair criticism.

    Perhaps an indictment of her staff.



  21. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-19 06:38

    Guy, I do not dispute that Noem has played politics quite shrewdly. It’s just too bad that she has applied her acumen strictly to promoting herself and winning elections, not to serving the public and effectively governing.

  22. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-19 06:40

    $340 for a Motel 6 room? Now that’s an emergency! The Governor of Montana should issue an executive order imposing price controls.

    Indeed, where is the evidence of the gas shortage in the Black Hills? Even if the state has the authority to suspend federal laws for an emergency, you’d think the state would have to provide evidence of the emergency.

  23. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-19 06:42

    John makes an excellent point about alternative responses to this supposed fuel shortage. Instead of drawing harder on a supply chain that’s already struggling to keep up, why not ease the strain by conserving fuel?

  24. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-19 06:44

    Sam, since when is it “common sense” to suspend a whole raft of federal safety rules that go well beyond the one rule cited as necessary to address the alleged emergency?

  25. M 2021-07-19 07:12

    I’m staying off the highway.

  26. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-19 08:51

    Arlo, interesting suggestion about freeing up cops for Sturgis. The order is timed to expire the day after the Sturgis Rally ends. Does this order somehow free up any law enforcement personnel? If this order really only targets the drive-time limits, who checks those log books?

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-07-19 10:43

    West River and the rest of South Dakota are part of Petroleum Administration for Defense District 2. According to the Energy Information Administration’s July 14 “This Week in Petroleum” report, PADD 2’s total gasoline stocks are 51.8 million barrels, 1.17% higher than the stocks one year ago. PADD 2 conventional gasoline stocks are down 18% from a year ago, while blending components stocks, the much larger component of total stocks, are up 4.0% from a year ago. Gasoline production and outputs are still below what they were in August 2019, but so is demand.

  28. leslie 2021-07-19 15:36

    Consistently, Noem seems determined to harm the public safety on the highways, “for the money”.

    Not forcing Ravnsborg to resign is inconsistent with the highest state law enforcement officer (getting the benefit of the doubt, remaining on the public dole pending state driving charges, making political legal decisions, by avoiding the BAC testing the night of his accident (like a San Francisco public official’s “time capsule” confession of blackout driving, discovering blood and hair on his vehicle after the fatality, “thinking it must have been a deer i hit” on the TV series “Monk”.

    What is the chain of custody of the Taurus blood/hair/glasses evidence as it was parked in the Pierre area where Ravensborg was sleeping off killing Mr Boevere?

    When did he 1st come up with his suicide theory?

    “undoubtedly severe enough to be debilitating. He was describable as ‘down and out’ at that point, unemployed, and living with his parents in Brookings, SD, despite having recently completed a nursing degree to complement his other educational achievements.” Also, Barnabas added:

    “I was impressed with how comparatively organized he and his life were at that point.

    He was not drinking, was gainfully employed, owned a home, and had a new wife whom I got to know a little bit. Much of this improvement was likely due to various medical diagnoses he was forced to confront toward the end of his life; balancing the multiple medications and required treatments undoubtedly demanded sobriety.“

    “Undoubtedly, comparatively, multiple, required, unfortunately, diagnoses,” —Barnabas Nemec draws his own allusions and conclusions as facts.

    The trial will now be sidetracked with Banabas’ distraction. The Noem and Ravnsborg and Lew soap opera will take full advantage. She does after all have a 100 lawyer/staff justice office with excess clout in the state, and publicly paid private lawyers aimed at her reelection and whatever other ludicrous Republic future she lusts for.

  29. Mark Anderson 2021-07-19 19:05

    Well, since she’s allowing truck drivers to drive as much as they want, maybe she’s getting ready to legalize amphetamines. You must always look on the bright side.

  30. T 2021-07-19 19:58

    Soooooo……harms oil, Appel oil and all others can hire a 18 year old wo CDL. That’s now going to happen. Cut off switches limits all newer semis to 65 anyway.. no farmer friends I know drink alcohol while driving, Only one that helps us is the broken things on semis….we all run with duct tape end of harvest.
    I really don’t get why this was necessary. Any farmer doesn’t need CDL, drivers , just drivers as long as there within so many miles from farm. Tanker endorsements on CDLs doesn’t help anyone here as well as pointed out, your hauling big dangerous commodity, they want experience and they don’t want carelessness. Obviously someone wanted this passed but who?

  31. Guy 2021-07-19 21:21

    Cory, I agree with you that she puts herself and her agenda ahead of governing what’s in the best interest of South Dakota citizens. However, I disagree with your use of terms: “shrewd”. That term is a positive term reserved for smart business people. She is anything but, “shrewd”. I think the term “cunning” is a far more accurate and negative term to describe the political animal that is Kristi Noem.

  32. Guy 2021-07-19 21:25

    Mark Anderson, some people “Looked like they picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines.” (Airplane 1980).

  33. T 2021-07-20 20:20

    She is a “modern” carpet bagger

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