As a truck accident lawyer, I am well-aware of the dangers of large heavy vehicles and driver fatigue. But the statistics on the truckers coming off the oil and gas fields in our country are truly shocking and alarming.
Recently, I read a fine New York Times article that stunned me, as it likely did other readers. Apparently, highway crashes, are actually the greatest danger to oil and gas field truckers, which is not what you might expect.
The data collected by the Centers for Disease Control right here in Atlanta are quite stark. Almost one third of oil field worker deaths are the result of highway fatality, but for other industries highway accidents account for around one fifth of these fatalities.
The high rate of death might be related to the fact that oil field exemptions allow truckers to work longer hours than in most regulated industries. This puts the drivers, their co-workers and the public at risk. These workers can work a 14 hour maximum day. But it seems that some days are far longer than that.
In the article, the sad case of one worker is recounted. He nearly lost his life in one trucking accident, only to be killed in a second trucking accident. His company was cited for “allowing or requiring truckers to drive after the legal limit of 14 hours per shift” and although they were fined and lost their federal transportation registration, they got around this in a dangerously clever way.
The controversy over this situation has been the subject of much discussion and angst and frankly, grief. The families of these workers obviously suffer greatly over the losses of their family members.
The National Transportation Safety Board has gone on record as stating that they are against the exemptions that can increase the chances that a serious accident can result. I agree with their position and the reports are sobering about what this means for the future because more wells will come on line in the next ten years. And the methods being used put more and more trucks on the road because new methods require much more water than old methods. But the problem is that this industry, as great as it might be for our economy and new jobs, allows companies to avoid the rules that other industries must follow.
The NYT report sets out the CDC data which reveals that in just one year, 2003-2004, the fatalities of oil and gas workers grew by an alarming fifteen percent. This is attributed to less experienced workers, long hours and older or unsafe equipment summoned into action to deal with the energy boom.
There are many ways in which the oil and gas industry is permitted to avoid reporting to health and safety agencies, something that seems to directly relate to the increased trucking fatalities. I will keep readers posted on whether there is any move to lift these exemptions, which may well be contributing to highway and worker deaths.
The most important thing you or a family member can do after a truck highway accident, is to consult with experts who can help with medical and legal issues. If you would like a free consultation about an Atlanta truck or other motor vehicle accident, please contact the Law Offices of P. Charles Scholle, to discuss your situation. There is no charge for my evaluation of your case.