There is little doubt that the oil and gas boom in the United States has been good for a number of state economies, especially Texas, which has benefited greatly from the boom.
Unfortunately, based on recent reports, there is also definitely a downside to the Texas oil and gas boom, in that our state now leads the nation in highway fatalities. This is because drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, entails the movement of a lot of materials and a lot of clean up, all of which requires lots of new trucks. And since a lot of the fracking that’s going on is happening in relatively remote areas, much of the traffic that has been generated by the oil and gas boom is occurring on roads that were not built to handle it.
Before the gas boom, the number of fatalities on Texas roads had been trending down for decades. But beginning in about 2009, when the boom started in earnest, that trend began to reverse itself. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, between 2009 and 2013, the number of traffic fatalities on Texas roadways increased by 8 percent, even though the rate in the country as a whole continued to trend downward. The number of deaths that could be linked to commercial vehicles, such as trucks, also increased by more than 50 percent during the same time frame.
There seem to be a number of reasons for this, and they all need to be looked at. According to a trucking industry trade group, it has more to do with regular drivers sharing the road with trucks and has to do with the truckers themselves. However, some law enforcement experts suggest that one cause may be the influx of inexperienced drivers, who have come into the state because of the huge demand. In some cases, truck drivers have simply undergone two weeks of schooling, graduate, and immediately take the wheel of a tractor-trailer or other large truck.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, it has also become more common for companies to put large trucks on the road that have no business being there. In the case of one company, after a fatal accident, it was found out that the company had committed a number of safety violations over several months, ranging from a driver smoking marijuana while operated the vehicle to defective brakes and defective tires. According to DPS, that company should not have been allowed on the road with any vehicle, and yet they were able to cause a fatal accident. Not only that, but it took four months for them to take away the company’s operating permits.
Another increasingly common factor in fatal truck accidents in Texas has to do with driver fatigue. It is quite common for workers in oilfields work 12 hour shifts before they all load up a company van to drive to their hotel, which can often be as much is an hour away from the worksite. According to experts, companies should not work long hours and then be forced to drive a long distance to get some rest.
Every oil and gas company, as well as every other employer in Texas, has responsibility to make sure their workers are safe. They also have a responsibility to make sure that their workers don’t put anyone else at risk, either. The increase in traffic deaths in the state of Texas is troubling, and someone needs to stop it. While Texas officials say they are trying to improve the safety of its roads, they’re trying to do so without disrupting the oil and gas industry, and that may be impossible.
If you or a loved one are injured or killed in an accident involving a large truck, please contact the Trucking Accident Lawyer at Hill Law Firm, so that we can get to the bottom of the accident and protect your rights.