Drivers hauling sand used for hydraulic fracturing (frack sand) are now eligible to use an hours-of-service (HOS) exception that extends the workday if their equipment meets specific criteria, according to the The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The U. S. Department of Transportation and FMCSA have extended the oilfield services exemption to “frack” sand drivers to extend their daily driving hours because of the wait time they face at well-drilling sites. The oilfield exemption falls under 49 CFR Section 395.1 (d)(2) of the rules and defines that “waiting time” for oilfield exempt drivers does not apply to the restriction of 14 hours a day.
Criteria for Consideration:
- FMCSA said that motor carriers will need to “assess their equipment and driver training” in order to determine if the exception can be used.
- The vehicle must be specifically constructed for use at oil and gas well sites (and no other use); and
- The driver must be trained extensively in the operation of the complex equipment, in addition to driving the vehicle.
Examples of equipment that typically qualifies for the exception include heavy-coil vehicles, missile trailers, nitrogen pumps, wire-line trucks, sand storage trailers, cement pumps, frack pumps, blenders, hydration pumps, and separators.
The pneumatic trailers used must be modified to transport frack sand as follows:
- Removal and replacement of aluminum fittings with steel fittings;
- Installation of hoses for offloading of frack sand;
- Installation of a blower unit, various valves, and pressure gauges for offloading frack sand under pressure at the well sites;
- Installing brackets for the 20-pound extinguisher; and
- Configuring the vehicle with heavier-duty suspension and chassis for off-road operations.
A letter to the industry from the FMCSA deputy administrator stated that qualification “is based on…modifications made to the vehicles that render them unable for any other use” and incapable, economically, of being re-purposed to haul other commodities and then put back to transporting sand.
(1) In the instance of drivers of commercial motor vehicles used exclusively in the transportation of oilfield equipment, including the stringing and picking up of pipe used in pipelines, and servicing of the field operations of the natural gas and oil industry, any period of 8 consecutive days may end with the beginning of any off-duty period of 24 or more successive hours.
(2) In the case of specially trained drivers of commercial motor vehicles that are specially constructed to service oil wells, on-duty time shall not include waiting time at a natural gas or oil well site. Such waiting time shall be recorded as “off duty” for purposes of §§ 395.8 and 395.15, with remarks or annotations to indicate the specific off-duty periods that are waiting time, or on a separate “waiting time” line on the record of duty status to show that off-duty time is also waiting time. Waiting time shall not be included in calculating the 14-hour period in § 395.3(a)(2). Specially trained drivers of such commercial motor vehicles are not eligible to use the provisions of § 395.1(e)(1).
Carriers hauling sand and using the HOS exception are advised to retain records documenting the special training and trailer modifications in their offices for audit and onboard the trucks in order to be disclosed to troopers should an accident take place. Consideration should be given to have a written document prepared which outlines the specifics as to how your vehicles have been modified to meet the guidance and also document the additional training provided to your drivers (document each training date, location and a retain a copy of the training curriculum provided for each driver claiming the exemption).
Pittsburgh Transportation Attorneys
Frank Botta is Chair of the Firm’s Transportation Practice Group. He is an experienced transportation industry veteran and is a Past-President of the Transportation Lawyers Association (2017-2018). Contact Frank at (724)776-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about HOS exemptions or other transportation matters.