FMCSA looking more closely at oilfield trucking safety
Jan 1, 2013 12:00 PM
Over the past year, officials at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) began taking a closer look at trucking in the oilfield. In addition to addressing accident concerns, the agency is working to raise regulatory awareness among oilfield haulers.
To that end, FMCSA issued a notice of regulatory guidance on oilfield exceptions to the hours of service rules. Key points are as follows:
With regard to the 24-hour restart provision during “servicing” of field operations of field operations of the natural gas and oil industry. FMCSA states that the 24-hour restart provision of section 395.1(d)(1) is available to drivers of the broad range of commercial vehicles that are used for direct support of the operation of oil and gas well sites, to include transporting equipment and supplies (including water) to the site and product or waste away from the site, and moving equipment to, fro, or between oil and gas well sites. These commercial vehicles do not have to be specially designed for well site use, nor do the drivers require any special training other than what is required for a commercial vehicle.
FMCSA clarified the “waiting time” provision in section 395.1(d)(2), stating that it is available only to operators of those commercial motor vehicles (CMVs)that are (1) specially constructed for use at oil and gas well sites, and (2) for which the operators require extensive training in the operation of the complex equipment, in addition to driving the vehicle.
In many instances, the operators spend little time driving these CMVs because “leased drivers” from driveaway services are brought in to move the heavy equipment from one site to another. These operators typically may have long waiting periods at well sites, with few or no functions to perform until their services are needed at an unpredictable point in the drilling process. Because they are not free to leave the site and may be responsible for the equipment, they would normally be considered “on duty” under the definition of that term in section 395.2.
Recognizing that these operators, their employers, and the well-site managers do not have the ability to readily schedule or control these driver's periods of inactivity, section 395.1(d)(2)provides that the “waiting time” shall not be considered on-duty (ie, it is off-duty time). During this “waiting time,” the operators may not perform any work-related activity. To do so would place them on duty.
Examples of equipment that may qualify the operator/driver for the “waiting time exception in section 395.1(d)(2) are vehicles commonly known in oilfield operations as heavy-coil vehicles, missile trailers, nitrogen pumps, wire-line trucks, sand storage trailers, cement pumps, frack pumps, blenders, hydration pumps, and separators. This list should only be considered examples and not all-inclusive.
Operators of CMVs that are used to transport supplies, equipment, and materials such as sand and water to and from the well sites do not qualify for the “waiting time exception” even if there have been some modifications to the vehicle to transport, load, or unload the materials, and the driver required some minimal additional training in the operation of the vehicle, such as running pumps or controlling the unloading and loading processes. It is recognized that these operators may encounter delays caused by logistical or operational situations, just as other motor carriers experience delays at shipping and receiving facilities. Other methods may be used to mitigate these types of delays, which are not the same types of waiting periods experienced by the CMV operators who do qualify for the “waiting time” exception.
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