The trucking industry is the largest means of freight transportation in the U.S. The American Trucking Associations reports approximately 3 million truckers currently driving in the U.S., and trucks accumulated almost 4 billion miles driven in 2011. While a large part of the economy, trucks can also be dangerous while on the road. An 18-wheeler truck can take 40,000 pounds of cargo while barreling down the highway at 70 mph or more. The average passenger motor vehicle weighs 4,000 pounds, giving a sizeable advantage to a large commercial truck in any truck accident and leads to danger for all involved.
Driver Fatigue and Hours-of-Service Regulations
Understandably, truck drivers want to make as much money as possible, which often means incentive to work long hours to take on more cargo. Long hours leads to fatigue; 30 to 40 percent of trucking accidents are the result of driver fatigue, the National Transportation Safety Board reports. The danger of fatigued driving is why federal guidelines limit the number of hours a trucker can work on any given day and in any given week.
As an example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration generally limits truck drivers carrying cargo to 60 driving hours in a seven-day period in most circumstances.
Oil and Gas Trucking Exemptions
However, exceptions to these guidelines exist. For example, truck drivers in the oil and gas industry can drive after working longer hours than truckers in most other industries. In fact, The New York Times recently reported that oil field truckers are regularly encouraged to drive after a 20-hour shift. The ability to work longer hours may be one reason why approximately 300 truckers in the oil and gas industry have died at the wheel in the last decade, the highest number of fatalities in the trucking industry.
Oil and Gas Trucking to Increase
The National Transportation Safety Board has stated it is “strongly opposed” to oil and gas industry exemptions. It is unclear why the oil and gas industry receives exemptions to hours-of-service regulations. What is clear is that oil field trucks on the road are about to increase dramatically. By now most people are familiar with fracking, the process by which oil and gas are extracted from hard rock layers through pressurized fluid. Federal officials report that 200,000 oil and gas wells will be drilled in the next 10 years, 180,000 of which will come from fracking. This is important because fracking wells require up to 1,500 more trucks per site than other drilling methods.
Clearly, this presents a danger to both oil field truck drivers and the population at large. Oil rig injuries are common enough, and oil field truck driver fatalities and injuries look to increase with this expansion, in addition to increasing the danger to everyone on the road.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, or a loved one has tragically died in such a wreck with an oil tanker, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.