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Issues With Big Rigs on the Road

Should the law provide a limit to working hours a truck operator in the Oil and Gas Industry be behind the wheel?

Should it be no more than 20 hours, 18 hours, or 15 hours?

The bottom-line is that everyone wants all of the laborers, drivers, roustabouts, roughnecks and workers to get through the day and not get injured or taken out by an overly fatigued driver.

In the last ten years, at least 300 gas and oil workers have suffered fatal highway crashes. Overly tired vehicle operators are specifically the greatest single risk of being the cause of a fatal accident in the energy industry.

Too many of these unfortunate accidents were caused at least in part by the “oil field exemption” adopted by various levels of government which frees vehicle operators in the energy extraction industry from the usual highway safety rules. These “exemptions” permit companies to order oil field truck drivers to drive longer hours than are allowed for drivers in other industries. According to health and safety experts, this increases the risk of accidents substantially.

When you talk with many oil field vehicle operators they will admit that while these industry driven exemptions help them earn more money, these exemptions are regularly used to put pressure upon individual operators to drive shifts that exceed 20 hours.

In 2015, the National Transportation Safety Board said was “strongly opposed” to the oil field vehicle operator exemptions because the exemptions increase the risk of accidents.

This accident threat is going to grow exponentially in coming years, according to safety advocates. Federal officials believe that more than 200,000 new gas and oil wells will become operational across the nation in the next ten years. Thousands of them will be here in Texas.

Many of these wells will be “fracking” wells. Those in the industry know that fracking wells lead to far more vehicles moving along the road than normal drilling sites. These fracked wells take about 500 to 1,500 more truck trips per well than traditionally drilled wells. This is in part because fracked wells require millions and millions of extra gallons of water for each well.

There can be no question that all of this new drilling has brought a new economic boom to the State of Texas and the entire country. It has added millions to the local tax base, increased royalty payments to individuals and created thousands of jobs.

The down side of this is that almost one third of all major injuries suffered by those in oil field jobs from 2003 until 2008 happened during highway accidents. Unless some changes get made which make workers safer, these numbers are likely to increase or at least continue.

The safety professionals who work for the Oil Companies dispute this information. Those industry employees point the finger at other factors which they claim contribute to the fatality rate in the industry. They cite “Drug use.”

We at Carabin Shaw seriously question these “findings” by “Safety Experts” who work for the oil companies.

Gas and oil workers also get into crashes because their vehicles are frequently in some disrepair, according to some police officials. Many state troopers, including here in Texas, will argue that a key problem is that a number of these 18 wheelers are in such poor repair that they should be banned from the roads.

Are you in Corpus Christi? Have you been in an accident with an 18 wheeler or other big rig?

Give Carabin Shaw a call. We can help. Call us at 361.444.1111, local if you’re in Corpus Christi.

Visits with the Attorney are by appointment only. Main office San Antonio, Texas.

The Carabin Shaw Offices in Corpus Christi are located two blocks south of the Nueces County Courthouse in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Our Corpus Christi telephones are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 361.444.1111.

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