Greatest Danger For Texas Oil Field Workers Is On The Road
15 May 2012No Comments
Over the past ten years, more than 300 oil and gas workers have been killed in traffic accidents, the largest cause of fatalities in the industry. According to safety and health experts, many of these deaths were due in part to exemptions from highway safety rules that allow oil field truckers to work longer hours than drivers in most other industries. While oil field workers say these exemptions help them earn money, they are also often used to pressure workers into driving after shifts that are 20 hours or longer. If you have been injured in a commercial trucking accident in Texas, contact our Corpus Christi trucking accident attorneys at Bandas Law Firm to discuss your legal options.
Texas Trucking Accidents Caused By Fatigue
“Just because you are on an oil field site does not make you any less vulnerable to the effects of fatigue,” wrote Garr Farrell, an oil service driver in Ore City, Texas, in a letter to highway safety regulators. In the letter, Ferrell complained that his managers had used the oil field exemptions to force him to wait for 36 hours at one well site before he could unload his drilling supplies and get back on the highway, during which time he had nowhere to sleep. Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board said it “strongly opposed” oil field exemptions because it believes they raise the risk of crashes.
The threat of deadly accidents oil workers face will grow substantially in coming years, safety advocates warn, as more than 200,000 new oil and gas wells are expected to be drilled nationwide over the next ten years. And the drilling technique used at more than 90% of these wells, called hydraulic fracturing (fracking), will lead to far more trucks on the road than traditional drilling, possibly as many as 500 to 1,500 per well, partly because this method requires millions of gallons of water per well.
Oil Field Fatality Rate Seven Times National Average
While the new drilling in Texas and across the U.S. has created hundreds of thousands of jobs and added billions of dollars in local tax revenues and royalty payments, the jobs are also hazardous, putting the lives of oil field workers at risk on a daily basis. In fact, the oil industry has a fatality rate that is seven times the national average across all industries. And nearly one-third of the 648 oil field worker fatalities that occurred between 2003 and 2008 were caused by highway crashes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of Americans killed in car accidents has been declining, but federal transportation data indicates that the number of fatalities from crashes involving large trucks climbed 8.7% from 2009 to 2010. Across all industries, traffic accidents are a leading cause of death among workers. In light of this data, federal regulators have set stringent safety rules for commercial truck drivers that dictate how many hours they can spend on the road. However, the oil and gas industry has enjoyed several exemptions to these rules that have allowed many of its truckers to work longer hours over the past five decades. For example, most commercial truck drivers must stop driving no later than 14 hours after their workday begins, a rule aimed towards preventing fatigue-related crashes. Unfortunately, many oil and gas industry drivers are not required to count time spent waiting at the well site while other crews finish their tasks, a wait time that can stretch over ten hours or more.
A Texas Trucking Accident Attorney Can Help
As more and more oil industry truck drivers fall victim to deadly traffic accidents due in large part to driver fatigue, federal highway authorities have taken steps to improve highway safety by promoting the amendment of oil field exemptions. In December however, the Ford Motor Carrier Safety Administration decided not to change or eliminate the oil and gas industry exemptions, explaining that they had “been in place for nearly 50 years” and were clear enough. If you have been injured in a trucking accident in Texas, or if you lost a loved one in such an accident, contact our Corpus Christi trucking accident lawyers to explore your compensation options.