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Exception to the Rule Carriers evaluating response to abrupt rule change by FMCSA


BY STEVE BRAWNER ContributingWriter

On June 4, 2012, drivers of oilfield sand

and water trucks were doing business as usual thanks to an exception to the federal hours of service rule they had been granted for the past 50 years. The next day, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration removed that exception without warning. Affected carriers in the oil and natural

gas extraction industries now are trying to determine how to respond to this development, while the trucking industry is wondering if the abrupt change could set a precedent. The exception has been granted because

drivers serving oilfield operators can spend many hours in remote areas waiting to unload sand and water. They stay in their sleeper cabs or in facilities provided by the oilfield operator,


and their carriers have been reimbursed for that time through negotiated rates. Under the FMCSA’s traditional waiting

time exception, specially trained drivers of specialized vehicles used exclusively in oilfield well operations have not been required to count the time as part of their 14 on-duty hours. Also, oilfield drivers have a 24-hour restart rather than the 34-hour restart now required for the rest of the industry. The exceptions were put in place by the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1962. Then the FMCSA announced in the June

5 Federal Register what it called a regulatory guidance that stated that the 14-hour exception no longer would be in effect for certain haulers it no longer considered qualified. It listed two examples, sand and water trucks, that were no longer eligible, and 10, including wire-line trucks and sand storage

ISSUE 6, 2012 |

trailers, that still were. Comments were invited to be received before Aug. 6 even though the policy was already in effect. That comment period later was extended to Oct. 5 after the trucking industry and members of Congress objected. The Federal Register, a listing of current

and pending government actions, explained that the guidance was being issued to ensure more consistency in applying the exception. It stated that the agency was responding to a significant increase in commercial motor vehicle operators at oil and natural gas sites. But Barry “Spook” Stang, executive

director of the Motor Carriers of Montana, said the timing of the change presents challenges to a trucking industry already beset by a driver shortage. “My biggest fear is that in order to do

what they want to do, it’s going to take twice 7

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