US DOT Clamps Down on Max Hours Shale Industry Truckers Work

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently delivered a “rule clarification” that means trucking firms may no longer subtract “down time”—like waiting for water and sand to be loaded/unloaded—from the maximum number of hours a driver can work per day. Some trucking firms were using a loophole, an exemption for special oil field service equipment, to increase the total number of hours drivers worked. No more.

Truck drivers hauling water and sand to U.S. oil and natural gas shale wells can’t extend their daily on-duty hours by using an exemption targeted for special oil field service equipment, the government said.

Time spent waiting while water and sand are unloaded at well sites counts toward the maximum 14 hours a day that a truck driver can work, the Transportation Department said in a rule clarification.

Some drivers might be using an exemption for equipment such as pumps or gas separators that let operators subtract from the limit the time waiting for gear to be unloaded, said Boyd Stephenson, director of hazardous materials policy at the American Trucking Associations.

The U.S. agency is targeting a boom in natural-gas drilling by hydraulic fracturing, a process that can require hauling as many as 1,000 truckloads of water and sand for every well. Limiting the exemption might force drillers to add drivers, Stephenson said.

“If you were an operator in the past that was utilizing this exemption for transporting sand and water then, yes, it means you’re going to have to have more drivers,” Stephenson said. “There were probably some that were utilizing this exemption for sand and water trucks in the past. How many is anybody’s guess.”*

*Akron (OH) Beacon Journal/Bloomberg (Jun 5, 2012) – Fracking trucks hauling sand subject to workday limit, U.S. says