Does the oilfield exemption lead to a dangerous workplace?May 16, 2012
Recently we talked about the Fatigued Driving (Hours-of-Service) BASIC and the complicated rule regarding mandatory rest times. We didn’t focus a lot of attention on one of the exceptions to the Hours-of-Service rule known as the oilfield exemption, but it got some attention in the New York Times yesterday, with an article on the dangers of fatigued driving that surround much of the oil and gas industry.
The oilfield exemption
The oilfield exemption was put in place in the 1960s to allow oil and gas rig drivers greater flexibility in their driving schedules, especially considering that it may take more than 10 hours of wait time at the well site. But with domestic oil production on the rise (projections estimate 200,000 new well sites will be drilled over the next decade), the number of drivers carrying materials (mostly water) to these sites and oil and gas away will also increase significantly.
Tony Poetz, a Technical Communications Specialist here at Xata, noted that fatigue affects both drivers and the maintenance crews that service the trucks. “The crew routinely works around the clock to get the trucks back on the road. They’ll often jump in their utility truck (a moving shop), dash to a stranded truck in the middle of the night, lie on a sledding toboggan in the snow or mud and repair or replace major components. It’s not as critical as fatigue behind the wheel, but fatigue installing the parts in the snow doesn’t help.”
What are your own experiences with the oil field exemption? Have you found yourself in a situation where you’re encouraged to take the exemption and continue driving even after a long shift?