There has been much discussion over the years about the hours of service rules for oil and gas field operations. It isn’t a matter of having “special rules” for drivers in the oil and gas fields; it’s a matter of having a few exceptions to the standard rules. First and foremost, there is no exception that completely exempts a commercial driver operating in the oil and gas field from all of the hours of service regulations.
Before we get into the exceptions, let’s review the basics of the hours of service regulations. They are located in Section 395.3 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The limits include:
• No driving after eight hours since the driver’s last off duty break of 30 minutes or more, unless the driver qualifies as a short haul driver under Section 395.1(e). Drivers transporting Division 1.1, 1.2 or 1.3 explosives must log the break as on duty if attending the vehicle.
• No driving after 11 hours of driving time within a 14 consecutive hour driving window.
• No driving after 60 hours on duty in seven consecutive days or 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days, depending on whether the company operates vehicles on the road every day of the week.
Once a week (that is, once every 168 hours), a driver who gets 34 hours or more off may restart his 60 or 70 hours. However, the break must contain two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods.
There are three exceptions in the hours of service regulations for oil and gas field drivers:
1. The 24-hour restart
2. Logging waiting time as off duty
3. Alternate split break option
Under the first exception, drivers that haul exclusively in support of oil and gas field operations can get a restart after only 24 hours off instead of the standard 34 hours. Not only that, it can be any 24 hours. There is no once per week or two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. period requirements for drivers that qualify for this exception. The second exception allows drivers operating specially constructed vehicles requiring specialized training to log waiting time — not working time — at well sites as off duty time. Drivers that qualify for this exception do not have to count the waiting time against their 14 consecutive hour limit. One “litmus test” that is used to determine if a driver qualifies for the exception is, “Can the vehicle only be used in oil and gas field operations due to its construction?” If the answer is yes, then this waiting time exception (found at Section 395.1(d)(2) in the regulations) can probably be used by the driver.
Drivers using this exception cannot use the short haul exceptions. These are also referred to as the “100 air mile” and “non-CDL 150 air mile” exceptions. These two exceptions allow the driver to keep a time record in place of a regular grid graph log, provided certain conditions are met. The reason a driver using the waiting time exception cannot use one of the short haul exceptions is the driver needs to be able to show specifically what time was spent waiting at a well site, using either the remarks area or an additional fifth line (“waiting at well site” line) on a standard grid graph log.
The third exception is an alternate split break exception. This exception is another one that can only be used by specially trained drivers operating specially constructed equipment. Drivers can use any break of two hours or more in a sleeper berth or sleeping facilities at a well site as a qualifying break, and any two qualifying breaks can be combined to make the 10-hour break (there is no eight-hour sleeper berth requirement). Also, all qualifying breaks do not count toward the driver’s 14-hour calculation.
If there is no exception for it, it applies
The exceptions to the regulations — and to the hours of service regulations specifically — are generally located in Section 390.3 and Section 395.1. If the driver is not involved in an activity discussed in one of these exceptions, the regulation applies as written.
For more information, contact Tom Bray at email@example.com or visit www.jjkeller.com.