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Fracking and Fatalities: The Drastic Increase in Deadly Trucking Accidents During An Oil and Gas Boom
Unsafe trucks and fatigued truck drivers are a danger to everyone on the road. Statistics recently released by the Texas Department of Transportation confirm that the boom in fracking over the last several years has coincided with a fifty-percent increase in fatal crashes involving commercial motor vehicles in Texas since 2009. Even more alarming, the number of crashes involving three or more fatalities has more than doubled in Texas since 2010. Many point to the increase in natural gas operations as a contributing factor in many of these horrific crashes, because many of the greatest increases in fatal crashes are centralized in areas experiencing an oil and gas boom.
People may wonder what the link is between fracking and the increase in fatal trucking accidents. There are several explanations, such as –
Less restrictive regulations on truck drivers working in oil and gas operations.
Most truck drivers are subject to a series of federal regulations restricting the number of hours they can drive a large truck. However, some of these regulations are modified for truck drivers working exclusively in the oil and gas industry. These differences often mean that truck drivers working in oil fields are more fatigued because they can work longer hours with fewer and shorter breaks. This chart outlines a few of the key differences in the federal hours of service regulations for interstate truck drivers working exclusively in oil and gas operations:
|Most Truck Drivers…|
|Must take a 34-hour “re-start” break, including two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. at the end of their week.|
|Must log the time they wait to pick up a load as “on-duty” time, which counts against the limit of 14 hours of on-duty time before a 10-hour rest break is required.|
|Must take a rest period of 10 consecutive hours at the end of a 14-hour day before they can drive again.|
|Oil and Gas Truck Drivers..|
|Only take a 24-hour “restart” break at the end of their week.|
|Can log their time waiting at an oil and gas operation as “off-duty” time, which does NOT count against the limit of 14 hours of on-duty time before a 10-hour rest break is required.|
|Can split their 10-hour rest period into multiple, shorter breaks in between working|
Unsafe trucking companies remain in business due to high demand.
Oil and gas operators often do not have their own trucks to carry certain heavy equipment, bring in water, or haul away mud and debris. In fact, oil and gas companies may hire a trucking company that offers services to the industry to handle this portion of the drilling operation. If the oil and gas company is in a hurry to get an operation started, it may not take the time to check the trucking company’s safety record. This means that unsafe trucking companies continue operating, because the demand for these services is extremely high.
Poorly maintained trucks working in the oil and gas industry.
Hauling materials for the oil and gas industry is a dangerous and dirty business. The trucks used for these operations may not be properly maintained when companies are working under tight deadlines. Even something as simple as failing to wash mud and debris from a truck can cause mechanical failures and obstruct visibility. Police report that trucks in the oil and gas industry suffer from a high rate of violations for bad brakes, overweight loads and bald tires. All of these mechanical issues can have serious safety consequences.
Increased truck traffic on rural roads.
When an oil and gas operation moves in to town, it can bring a significant increase in heavy truck traffic. This sudden increase in traffic is especially dangerous on narrow, rural roads. Trucks operating at all hours, and truck drivers unfamiliar with the local roads, mean more danger for local drivers, passengers and pedestrians.