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FMCSA Proposes HOS Clarification for Oilfield Drivers

The boom of the oil industry in recent years has been a mixed blessing. On one hand, it has brought employment opportunities for many unskilled workers-some jobs paying up to $2,000 per week-and increased tax revenues for local coffers.

On the other hand, however, this prosperity has come at a price. Unfortunately, it has increased the number of oil field service trucks on the road and put workers in danger.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2003 and 2008, 648 oilfield workers were killed and nearly a third of the fatalities were caused by truck accidents. By contrast, only a fifth of workplace fatalities were caused by truck accidents across all other industries.

Experts believe that the reason why oilfield drivers have a higher risk of being involved in an accident is truck driver fatigue due to a lack of strong regulations for their safety. In all other industries, drivers of large trucks must follow federal rules called hours-of-service regulations. These regulations help to combat driver fatigue, by setting limits on the maximum number of hours a driver can continue driving a truck, and by providing mandatory rest breaks.

However, due to many years of lobbying by the oil industry, truck drivers in the oil and gas industries are exempt from the hours-of-service regulations, increasing the likelihood of driver fatigue. To illustrate, the regulations require commercial truck drivers to take at least 34 hours off for every 60 hours of work. Oil and gas truckers who work 70 hours, by contrast, are only required to take 24 hours off.

Clarification of Exemptions

To help combat the problem of driver fatigue in the oil and gas industry, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is offering some proposals.

First, the FMCSA is proposing a required mandatory 24 hour rest period after 70 hours of work for all carriers that provide direct support to oil and gas sites, including carriers that that haul waste or water used for fracking. Previously, only drivers who exclusively transport oil and gas equipment qualified for the rest period.

The FMCSA is also proposing a clarification of the current regulation that allows certain drivers to not count the time they spend waiting on a job towards their on-duty time.

Under the new, proposed rule, the FMCSA would apply this exemption to drivers of well-service equipment who are trained to operate such machinery. Drivers who merely transport equipment and materials for oil companies such as sand or water would count waiting time towards their on-duty time, allowing them to reach their 70 hours of work-and mandatory rest period-sooner.

Essentially, the FMCSA hopes the proposals are a step in the right direction for decreasing driver fatigue overall.

If you or your loved one has been injured in a truck accident, contacting a local personal injury attorney with experience investigating and litigating truck accident cases is advised. A lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve by holding those drivers and trucking companies accountable for violations, like hours-of-service rules, that may have contributed to your accident and subsequent injuries.