A move by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor carrier Safety Administration to allow an oil field service exemption to “frac” sand drivers drew thanks from Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Markwayne Mullin. And no doubt, oil field operators in Oklahoma will applaud the decision.
The two had campaigned to convince the federal government to exempt the haulers to extend their daily driving hours because of the wait time they face at well-drilling sites.
“Frac sand haulers face delays beyond their control, just like other oil field operators,” said Sen. Inhofe. “They clearly meet the exemption guidelines and I’m pleased that the Department of Transportation agrees.”
He said the move will ease “regulatory burdens and streamline operations across the industry.”
Rep. Mullin agreed.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, this administration has continued to roll back job-killing, Obama-era regulations,” he said. “By including frac sand trucks in this exemption, the regulatory burden on truck operators will be greatly reduced and operations at gas and oil field sites will prove more efficient.”
Mullin called it a “commonsense decision.”
The announcement came after Sen. Inhofe sent a letter in January to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao urging her to change the rules and grant the excemption.
The issue came to light about six years ago. Under the rules, truck drivers hauling sand to oil and natural gas shale drilling sites did not qualify for the special oil-field service equipment to extend their daily driving hours.
The DOT in 2012 clarified the rule and said that time spent waiting while sand is unloaded at well sites counted toward the maximum 14 hours a day that a truck driver could work under hours of service regulations. The government said the exemption at the time only applied to operators of commercial motor vehicles that were specifically constructed for use at oil and gas well sites.
Sen. Inhofe and Rep. Mullin argued that frac sand trucks were also specifically constructed for such use and that the drivers should also be exempted from the 14-hour-a-day restriction.
The oil-field exemption fell under Sec.395.1(d)(2) of the rules and determined that “waiting time” for oil-field exempt drivers did not apply to the restriction of 14 hours a day.