Oil and Gas Truck Hours-of-Service Exceptions May Cause Driver Fatigue
Ask anyone who works at an excavation site for an oil or natural gas mining operation, and they’ll tell you that drilling can be dangerous work. But one of the biggest threats facing oil and gas workers — as well as the general public — is not explosions, or equipment malfunctions, or noxious fumes. It is something that, at first glance, seems far less threatening: truck accidents.
While highway accidents can be a danger in any profession that involves travel on the open road, they appear to be especially prevalent in the oil and gas industry. Why? Many experts blame the fact that drivers working at oil and gas fields are exempt from certain Department of Transportation hours-of-service rules.
Government Agencies Beginning To Question Extended Service Hours For Oilfield Truckers
According to The New York Times, more than 300 oil and gas workers have been killed in highway crashes over the last decade, making traffic accidents the number one cause of fatalities in the industry. The most recent data available from the CDC indicates that approximately one-third of deaths among oil field workers were caused by traffic crashes in the years 2003 to 2008; however, across all industries, highway deaths accounted for just one-fifth of workplace fatalities.
Exemptions to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service rules allow oilfield truckers to work longer shifts compared to commercial drivers in other industries. Unlike drivers of other commercial vehicles, oilfield workers are not required to log time waiting at a natural gas or oil well site as “on duty driving time” that counts toward the 14-hour period after coming on duty during which driving is allowed. For oilfield drivers, the 14-hour limitation is extended by the amount of time they spend waiting (and with an average of 500 to 1,500 truck trips required per fracking well, a significant amount of drivers’ time is spent waiting to get through at jobsites). Many oil field truckers report that hours-of-service exemptions are regularly used to pressure them into driving after shifts that extend 20 hours or longer.
The FMCSA recently proposed an initiative to clarity these exemptions, but some say that’s not enough. In 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board said it strongly opposes hours-of-service exemptions for oilfield truckers because they raise the risk of accidents.
Injured In An Accident With A Truck Driving To Or From An Oil Well? You May Be Owed Compensation.
Whether truckers are overextended on the oilfield or the open highway, the result is the same: fatigue that puts the drivers, other oil and gas workers, and the general public at risk. Even if technically in compliance with the hours-of-service rules for oilfield drivers, a fatigued trucker who causes a crash can attach legal liability to his or her employer. If you have been injured in a truck crash, contact a personal injury attorney todayto learn more about your right to compensation.