Transportation plays a massive role in the oil and gas industry, and oil and gas truckers are indispensable, highly valuable crew members.
Unfortunately, oilfield drivers are subject to more injuries than any other worker in the industry.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), oil and gas vehicle accidents make up around 18% of all oil and gas industry fatalities.
As the industry ramps up across the Bakken, Eagle Ford, Barnett, and Haynesville Bossier plays, so do driver injuries and deaths. And these accidents aren’t usually the driver’s fault.
Why Is Oilfield Trucking So Dangerous?
With more and more CDL drivers, including frac sand haulers, fuel truck drivers, water haulers, and equipment movers, required to transport resources to and from drill sites 24 hours a day, we are seeing more and more oilfield driver accidents. Tragically, oil and gas companies want projects completed yesterday – and at the cheapest cost possible.
Urgency and cost-cutting means oil tanker drivers drive fatigued; companies allow inexperienced, untrained and underqualified CDL drivers take the wheel, and oilfield vehicles suffer poor maintenance and repair.
Slack Federal Trucking Regulations
Federal trucking regulations impose fewer restrictions on oilfield truckers than they do on commercial truckers in other industries.
For example, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations only require oilfield drivers to take 24 hours off for every 60 hours of driving. However, truckers in other industries must take 34 hours off for every 60 hours of driving. Other industries require them to stop driving after 14 hours of work (including wait times). Wait times don’t count as driving hours for oilfield drivers.
These rules apply to all oil and gas industry vehicles, including service trucks, oil tankers, service vehicles, equipment haulers, vacuum trucks, swab rigs, frac water haulers, sand trucks, hot oil trucks, and winch trucks.
With wait times potentially exceeding 10 to 12 hours, and no quiet place to sleep, oilfield truck drivers may only get three to four solid hours of sleep a night – if that.
This lack of sleep is incredibly dangerous. Fatigue impairs a driver’s ability to make life-saving split-second decisions and to think ahead before acting when loading and unloading fluids or equipment.
Poor Oilfield Driver Training
Many oilfield truck drivers are also poorly trained or underqualified. Oil and gas companies can save millions of dollars by skimping on driver safety training and hiring inexperienced drivers.
When companies ignore these important precautions, drivers aren’t clear on how to safely load and unload cargo, fail to properly inspect their trucks before and after trips, and inevitably cause a preventable accident.
Substandard Oilfield Vehicle Maintenance
Oil and gas companies also like to cut costs by holding off on truck repairs for as long as possible. This means oilfield drivers must carry thousands of tons of highly flammable materials or heavy equipment across rocky terrain, icy roads or high-speed highways in a truck lacking good tires, functional brakes or working turn signals.
5 Oilfield Trucker Safety Tips Nate: Makes this bigger and/or standout
As an oilfield trucker, it's important to take every precaution to protect yourself from injury. Below are some steps you can take to ensure your safety include:
Don’t allow yourself to become distracted while driving. Keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and know what other vehicles are around your rig at all times. Take frequent driving breaks to stretch out and check your truck, tires, and load stability.
Get adequate sleep
Safe driving means taking care of your body so that you can react immediately in any dangerous situation. Always set aside at least six to seven hours for uninterrupted, comfortable sleep.
Map out where you plan to sleep and eat ahead of time. Keep on top of weather conditions and traffic alerts along your path and make sure you take the time to eat and sleep even when you are running behind.
Be consistent on the road
Though you may want to get there fast, too many lane changes and unexpected moves can confuse other drivers on the road. Make it easy for them to predict what you will do. Leave plenty of free space in front of your rig, maintain a solid speed, and avoid lane changes as much as possible.
Know your delivery site
When you reach your delivery spot, park your rig temporarily and get out to note any potential obstacles or broken equipment you may have to deal with. A majority of accidents happen when drivers are unloading cargo. A life or death situation can result if you forget to put on your parking brake because you are frustrated with a minor problem.
What to Do After an Oilfield Trucking Accident
Unfortunately, most oil rig truck driver injury cases are the fault of the oil company’s negligence, not the driver. But good luck getting the oil company to admit any wrongdoing. Oilfield trucker injuries often bring serious medical expenses, often accompanied by the inability to work for weeks, months or years while healing from the injury.
Contacting an experienced oilfield injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident is the most important thing you can do to ensure that you are fully compensated for your current and future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
We hope you never need the aid of an oilfield injury lawyer, but if you or someone you love has been tragically injured or killed in an oilfield trucking accident, we can help maximize your financial compensation.
Williams PLLC oilfield injury attorneys represent injured oilfield truckers across Texas, North Dakota, the Gulf of Mexico and across the nation. For a free, confidential case evaluation, contact Williams PLLC today. 361.885.0184 or Connect Online.