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Published: Saturday, 7/2/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

Fireworks haulers get exemption on fed rules

Cost-saving move allows increased driving time

Jeremy Barbati loads a rack of tubes for fireworks into a truck that will leave a fireworks manufacturer in New Castle, Pa. Jeremy Barbati loads a rack of tubes for fireworks into a truck that will leave a fireworks manufacturer in New Castle, Pa.

RICHMOND, Va. -- Truckers hauling fireworks to light up cities nationwide are being given an exemption on federal driving rules for the July 4 holiday, sparking concerns for safety advocates.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted an exemption to hours-of-service rules for members of the American Pyrotechnics Association, covering 3,000 drivers and about 50 firms carrying fireworks across the country.

Those truckers will be sharing the nation's roads and highways with 39 million motorists that the American Automobile Association projects will travel 50 miles or more during the July Fourth holiday weekend.

"We don't want to be the Grinch that steals Fourth of July from small towns, but they are making a trade-off between safety and cost of fireworks displays," said Henry Jasny, general counsel for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "To get that fireworks display, they're allowing drivers potentially to drive while fatigued."

The Department of Transportation said drivers will meet or exceed safety standards, and that it has "received no accident notifications, nor is the agency aware of any accidents reportable under terms of the exemption."

The fireworks industry group has been given exemptions since 2004, after federal driving rules were changed, without incident. Association officials said extending the amount of time truckers can be on the road is needed to get fireworks to cities and give drivers time to set up and set off the displays.

Most of the trips are short, but the time spent setting off a fireworks display and getting to the next location after the show can cut into the 14-hour maximum that drivers can be on the road per day, said Julie Heckman, executive director of the fireworks industry group.

"The Fourth of July is similar to our retail season," said Stephen Vitale, president of Pyrotecnico, which uses about 300 trucks to transport fireworks to 600 fireworks displays.

The exemption makes it "efficient and affordable" for companies and communities footing the bill, Mr. Vitale said.

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