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Truck accidents leading cause of death for oil and gas workers

May 26, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rule causing more crashes, more deaths for workers in oil and gas fields

Tired truckers cause more accidents. I’ve written and lectured at truck accident lawyer seminars about the dangerous connection between fatigue, truckers driving past hours of service, and health issues like sleep apnea that cause fatigue, and in turn, more trucking accidents. Sadly, the Federal Motor Carrier Administration seems to frequently cave to the trucking industry on safety rules regarding hours of service, fatigue, and monitoring the health of truckers.

A recent New York Times article addresses the effects of fatigue on truck drivers, specifically oil and gas workers, who are dying at an alarming rate from truck crashes: Deadliest danger isn’t at the rig but on the road.

According to the article, over the past 10 years, more than 300 oil and gas workers were killed in highway crashes, which makes truck accident deaths the largest single cause of fatalities in the oil and gas industries.

The really upsetting part of this tragic statistic is that a large reason for these truck accident deaths is because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (which sets federal truck laws), is allowing the oil and gas industry exemptions from mandatory safety rules that all other commercial truck drivers must abide by. Said the New York Times:

“Many of these deaths were due in part to oil field exemptions from highway safety rules that allow truckers to work longer hours than drivers in most other industries, according to safety and health experts… Many oil field truckers say that while these exemptions help them earn more money, they are routinely used to pressure workers into driving after shifts that are 20 hours or longer.”

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, drivers of commercial motor vehicles must stop driving 14 hours after the beginning of their workday. Here’s a blog post about new hours of service rules. However, many oil and gas industry drivers do not have to count time spent waiting at the well site while other crews finish their tasks. These wait times can sometimes stretch over 10 hours, according to The New York Times.

Also, if commercial truckers work more than 60 hours throughout seven consecutive days, they are required to take at least 34 hours off. On the other hand, oil and gas truck drivers who work that long only have to take 24 hours off by law.

These exemptions for a specific industry make no sense. As a truck driver in the article said, oil workers are not less vulnerable to the dangerous effects of fatigue.

Sadly, the only explanation seems to be the power of the oil and gas lobby.

The New York Times story started with the story about Timothy Roth’s death, an oil crew member who was killed in a truck accident. The driver fell asleep after a 17-hour workday and just minutes before the crew’s four-hour trip home finished.

The New York Times said that the oil field exemptions were granted in the 1960s after oil industry officials argued that their truck drivers needed more flexibility and hours on the job.

Steven Gursten is regarded as one of the nation’s top truck attorneys. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his work to promote national truck safety. He has recovered the top reported truck accident trial verdict and truck accident injury settlement in Michigan in multiple years, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Related information to protect yourself:

FMCSA pulls back on sleep apnea regulations for truck drivers

Why trucking companies must aggressively screen for sleep apnea

Michigan truck rules and regulations

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (248) 353-7575 or to speak with one of our truck attorneys today.

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One Reply to “Truck accidents leading cause of death for oil and gas workers”

  1. I guess when it comes to truck accidents, the statistics says it all. Drivers should really try to be more responsible behind the wheel . Last year my brother was badly injured in a truck accident. He is now unable to drive and got laid off.

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