ATLANTA — Normal restrictions on commercial trucks in Georgia are being waived under an executive order Gov. Brian Kemp has issued in response to the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline.
The Alpharetta-based company that supplies nearly half of the gasoline consumed on the East Coast reported a ransomware attack last Friday that forced a shutdown of a 5,500-mile pipeline running from Texas to New Jersey. The FBI blamed the attack on DarkSide, a group of hackers believed to operate out of Russia or Eastern Europe.
To help relieve gasoline shortages brought on by the shutdown, Kemp issued an executive order Monday suspending federal regulations governing the number of hours commercial truck drivers can operate and waiving normal weight, height and length limits on trucks subject to state “oversize” permits.
While the price of regular gas around Rome has spiked to near $2.89 a gallon at many locations, several retailers in the area have already exhausted their supplies of regular gas. The only gas available at many locations is the premium grade, which sells for close to 50 cents a gallon more than regular unleaded gas.
Dennis Ratliff, owner of the Ratliff on Broad Street, said he intended to call in an order for more gas last week, before the pipeline issue cropped up, and simply got too busy and forgot.
“I called Monday and couldn’t get any and don’t know when I will,” Ratliff said.
He said several of his regular customers who filled up last week were back in Monday and Tuesday morning just to top off their tanks. He sold 600 gallons of gas during a 10 hour period, which is about twice what he normally would sell in that time frame.
“I’ve got a little bit of premium, but there’s not much of that left, either, because I don’t keep that much,” Ratliff said.
Haroon Bajwa, owner of The Market on Second Avenue, said he had definitely seen some panic buying Tuesday morning. Bajwa was limiting the sale of regular gas to $10, but later upped the limit to $20 after finding out that he is scheduled to get a new shipment on Thursday.
In order to relieve rising gas prices, Kemp’s order suspends the collection of gasoline and diesel fuel taxes during the emergency and prohibits price gouging.
Georgia governors have issued similar executive orders during other disruptions in fuel supplies, usually following hurricanes or other natural disasters that affect refineries or pipelines.
Rome-Floyd County Fire Chief Troy Brock said the fire department is a priority recipient of fuel and he’s in good shape for a couple of weeks.
The shutdown of the Colonial pipeline is expected to send pump prices higher and force refiners to cut production because they can’t transport the fuel.
Kemp urged motorists not to panic.
“There is no need to rush to the gas station to fill up every tank you have and hoard gas,” he said. “With the measures we have taken today, I am hopeful we can get more supply to stations and get through to this weekend when we hope Colonial will return to normal.”
Colonial officials say they are working on “substantially restoring operational service” by the end of this week.
Kemp’s executive order is due to expire at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.