Federal transportation data reports that deaths from large trucks are on the rise. From 2009 to 2010 there was an 8.7 percent increase in fatalities involving large trucks. Statistics show that the leading cause of death among workers in any industry is auto accidents.
Federal regulators set stringent deadlines for drivers of large trucks, but the oil industry is exempt from many of these guidelines, thanks to more than 50 years of lobbying. Industry officials requested that lawmakers implement exemptions that would allow their drivers more flexibility.
Drivers for oil drilling companies are not required to keep the same types of logbooks as other commercial drivers. They are allowed to work longer hours because they are often required to wait on jobsites for extended periods. Thus, they do not spend their entire working day driving. Typically, a commercial driver is on duty for 14 hours per day, with a minimum of 34 hours off per 60 hours worked in a week. Oil drivers can work much longer days and are required to have only 24 hours off per 60 hours worked in any given week.
These exemptions are a growing safety concern. In late July 2011, an oil rig worker was killed in an auto accident after his co-worker, who was driving their truck, fell asleep at the wheel. The driver had worked for 14 hours that day and was making the 4-hour trek back to the company shop. He fell asleep just 10 minutes before reaching their destination.
To make matters worse, this was not the deceased worker’s first accident. He had been injured in a truck accident just 10 weeks earlier, when another co-worker fell asleep while driving their truck.
The oil industry is booming and has offered employment opportunities in areas where double-digit unemployment numbers are common. Oil workers often require minimal training and can earn up to $2,000 per week. For struggling families, these jobs are a chance to improve their lives.
Many residents now question if the risk of drilling is worth it. With an estimated 200,000 more oil and gas wells to be drilled in the next 10 years, the number of fatigued drivers will likely increase, putting workers and other motorists at greater risk for injury or death.
Source: New York Times, “Deadliest Danger Isn’t at the Rig but on the Road,” Ian Urbina, May 14, 2012