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Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to share my concerns over the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's recent regulatory guidance on the ``oilfield exception'' to the agency's ``Hours of Service'' requirements for drivers.

Under the Administration's regulations, specially trained drivers of specially constructed vehicles used to service oil wells do not have to count waiting time at the well site toward their hours of service limit. The new regulatory guidance, however, provides that drivers of support vehicles, such as those used to transport materials and supplies, used directly in the delivery of oil and gas services do not qualify for that same exception. The administration issued this guidance without prior comment, making it effective immediately and requesting comments after the fact.

Support drivers generally work under the exact same conditions as drivers of specially constructed vehicles, including the same periods of idleness while their vehicles are in use at the well site. Many drivers operate specially constructed vehicles one day and other support vehicles the next.

The new guidance creates a different standard for these exact same drivers. When operating a support vehicle, the driver's waiting time counts toward his or her hours of service limit, but when operating a specially constructed vehicle, that idle time does not count.

This double standard will create needless confusion among drivers and dispatchers who will now need to juggle competing rules for drivers depending on the vehicles they're driving on a particular day. In addition, while not applying the waiting time exception to drivers of support vehicles means that it will require more trucks and drivers to be dispatched while others are out of service, increasing truck traffic, especially on rural roads.

Many of our rural roads, particularly in the most active producing areas such as the Marcellus and the Bakken shale, are already struggling under the burden of heavy truck traffic. Adding more heavy vehicles to the roads will not enhance safety no matter how rested the drivers might otherwise be.

When I dealt with this issue with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2006, I thought we had reached an understanding of the industry's oilfield equipment vehicle operations and safety protocols. Unfortunately, the agency's new interpretation undoes this careful compromise.

It is important for the administration to document why it is pursuing this new interpretation and provide that data--if it actually has any--that it is using to support this change. I believe that, at a minimum, the agency should not put this revised guidance into effect until after the public has had a chance to comment and for the agency to consider those comments. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should not implement the new administrative interpretation until it provides adequate and complete justification for the changes that it's seeking to make.

Mr. Chairman, I call this regulatory overreach to the attention of the requisite committee so that, while they're doing their oversight of this agency, they can review this interpretation and perhaps add their influence to undoing this overreach.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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