Oil industry drivers risk exhaustion, deadly crashes
06/05/2012 // New York City, NY, USA // New York City Accident Lawyer // Jonathan C Reiter // (press release)
The past decade has seen over 300 deaths resulting from highway crashes involving oil and gas workers, explains Manhattan auto accident lawyer Jonathan C Reiter. Due to exemptions within the industry that allow oil field truckers to work longer hours than those in other industries, oil drivers can spend more than 20 hours on a shift.
In a letter to federal highway safety regulators, Garr Farrell, an oil service driver in Ore City, Texas wrote “Just because you are on an oil field site does not make you any less vulnerable to the effects of fatigue,” explaining he had been victim to exemptions that forced him to wait, without anywhere to sleep, for 36 hours at one well site before he could unload his drilling supplies and get back on the highway.
The National Transportation Safety Board stated it “strongly opposed” the oil field exemptions due to the rise in risk of crashes that accompanies extended hours in the field. New York City injury attorney Jonathan C Reiter explains the threat of injury to both workers and bystanders will increase in the following decade, as more than 200,000 new oil and gas wells will be drilled throughout the country.
While the drilling serves as a stimulus to the economy, the increase in safety risks likewise rises, as fracking requires roughly 500 to 1,500 truck trips per well, explains Reiter.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, fatality rates for oil workers are seven times the national average across all industries. Almost a third of the 648 deaths of oil workers between 2003 and 2008 were due to highway crashes.
Experts in the safety fields have called for increased oversight over the years, and explain its necessity as the industry continues to grow. The number of drilling rigs rose by more than 22 percent in 2011 from 2010. In contrast, the number of inspections at the work sites fell by 12 percent during the same span.
Another factor contributing to the amount of crashes caused by oil industry drivers, adds Mr. Reiter, includes the state of the vehicles. Data from the Pennsylvania State Police reports that 40 percent of the 2,200 oil and gas industry trucks inspected in 2009 were in such disrepair they were taken off the roads. This combined with the extended work hours the drivers face create hazardous conditions for both workers and others on the roads.
Mr. Reiter notes “it will be up to the state and federal governments, as well as the industry and its workers, to battle the roadway hazards produced by poorly maintained vehicles and exhausted drivers.”
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