Unfortunately in Texas, the oil patch has enjoyed much greater flexibility as it relates to how many hours its truck drivers can work and how much rest they receive prior to driving since the 1960s. That was when industry officials were convincing in their arguments that they required more flexibility than other industries as it related to drivers. However, several companies still bend and outright break these rules, and many workers or surviving members of their family have needed to contact a Houston truck accident attorney as a result.
Ever since the 1960s, there have been efforts to remove or alter these exemptions, but none have come to fruition. One notable effort in 2000 argued that safety on the roads would be improved once drivers received the amount of sleep that they needed to properly operate their vehicles. However, industry-backed lobbyists successfully convinced lawmakers to not alter the laws at that time. Even the National Transportation Safety Board went on record in 2011 that the organization “strongly opposed” these exemptions.
Disturbingly, the most prevalent cause of death for those working in the oil patch is dying from 18 wheeler accidents and other highway crashes as a third of the deaths in this industry take place on the highway. In fact, oil patch workers are nearly 10 times more likely to be killed in transportation accidents related to their work than those in other fields.
Part of the reason that hundreds of workers have died on the roads over the past 10 years is because these exemptions allow drivers in the oil patch to work more hours with less rest. Oftentimes, workers will put in long shifts of 20 or more hours and then have to get on the road. Two-week shifts of 12-hour days are also common in this field, which often result in a state of fatigue that is akin to the amount of impairment suffered by those who are intoxicated. Cargo is often illegally overloaded as well to ensure that the company saves money due to the fewer number of trips that are then necessary to move the load.
This trend increased in the mid-2000s when work shifts increased in length, workers who were inexperienced in this field were hired and aging trucks that were often in disrepair continued to be used, resulting in a fatality rate that was significantly higher than had been the case previously.
In Texas, a state that is home to a tremendous number of fracking sites, road deaths have increased at a disturbing rate ever since oil drilling and fracking experienced a boom here in the late 2000s. The Lone Star State has since taken the nation’s lead in motor vehicle deaths. The number of road accidents has also noticeably increased in areas of the state that surround oil patches.
Unfortunately, it appears that those needing to contact a personal injury attorney for these reasons will only increase in the coming years as drilling on hundreds of thousands of new oil and gas wells is expected to occur during this time period.
Another contributing factor to this expected increase is the fact that fracking will likely be used on the vast majority of these wells. This technique requires significantly more trucks to be used because of the millions of gallons of water that are necessary for this drilling method. Specifically, 1,200 trucks are needed just to get production started, while 350 more are needed every year to keep it going. Five years later, the re-fracking process requires 1,000 more trucks to be used.
It is clear that laws need to be changed, and these companies should at least be held accountable for following the rules that are in place. As long as the status quo remains in place, personal injury attorneys throughout the country will likely need to continue to provide their services to those injured on the road and their loved ones.