Oil and Gas Truck Accidents

In March 2013, the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention published a study entitled “Motor vehicle fatalities among oil and gas extraction workers.” Researchers reported that between 2003 and 2009, a total of 202 oil and gas extraction workers died in a work-related motor vehicle crash. This number was 8.5 times that of all private wage and salary workers.

In 2012, The New York Times reported on an oil worker who, after pulling a 17-hour shift at a natural gas well in Ohio, started driving the four-hour commute back to West Virginia. Ten minutes later, the driver fell asleep, and the truck slammed into a sign, killing him. Only two weeks earlier, the same driver had been involved in another crash, when a co-worker fell asleep behind the wheel of a company truck and collided with a pole.

Many similar deaths occur because of oil field exemptions that allow truckers to work longer hours, according to the Times, but while employees may earn more money, they are also often pressured into working 20-hour plus daily shifts.

As more and more oil and gas wells go in across the country, the danger posed by fatigued drivers directing oil and gas trucks down the road will certainly grow. These trucks may be exempt from normal trucking rules, but drivers aren’t exempt from the effects of fatigue. The Times also noted that the trucks they are driving are often in disrepair, which can also increase the risk of crashes.
It’s not just the drivers who are at risk. Passengers and occupants in other vehicles on the road are, as well, and crashes can be devastating. The personal injury lawyers at Chaffin Luhana stand ready to help victims recover the damages they deserve in oil and gas truck crash lawsuits.

Oil and Gas Trucks Exempt from the Rules

Whereas most drivers of commercial vehicles must stop working after 14 consecutive hours, oil and gas trucks may put in many more hours, as they do not have to count the time spent waiting at the well site (which can be anywhere from 30 minutes to over 10 hours).

Most drivers are also supposed to take 34 hours off after working 60 hours over seven consecutive days, but oil and gas workers have to take only 24 hours off—and spending those hours in the sleeper berth counts.

Even the limited regulations for oil and gas trucks are difficult to enforce, and repeated attempts to change the regulations have failed again and again. That means that the danger continues to exist on the road.

The Effect of Driver Fatigue

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), “truckload carriers…have a relatively high incidence of fatigue-related crashes because of their irregular and unpredictable operating schedules.”

Long hours of driving with little sleep in between leaves drivers vulnerable to nodding off. At the very least, their mental capacity is reduced and their thinking is less clear than when they are well rested. Other consequences of a lack of sleep include hallucinations and slow reaction times.

Who’s Liable in an Oil or Gas Truck Crash?

Though the driver may clearly be at fault in an oil or gas truck crashes, there may be other factors not immediately apparent that also contributed to conditions causing the accident. An experienced oil and gas truck lawyer can help victims seek out every opportunity for recovering damages.

  • Driver error: If the driver was fatigued, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, on medications, or distracted, he or she may be found liable in a personal injury lawsuit.
  • Company negligence: If the company was found to be negligent, they may share in the liability. They may have encouraged drivers to work excess hours, for example, or may have failed to be sure the driver was properly trained with the right experience for the job.
  • Maintenance problems: If the truck was improperly maintained and malfunctioned, other parties may be found to be at fault. The transportation company, for example, may have been responsible for regular maintenance and may have failed to keep up with proper scheduled repairs.
  • Outdated, defective equipment: If the trucks or trailers used by the company do not live up to established safety standards, they should be removed from service. If a company is found to still be using such vehicles to save money, they may share in the liability for the crash.
  • Ill-advised hiring decisions: Because of the oil and natural gas boom across the country, many companies are scrambling to find drivers, and end up hiring employees who don’t have the experience they need, or who have been cited in the past for poor driving.

Types of Injuries from a Crash with an Oil or Gas Truck

Because large trucks weigh so much, when they collide with passenger cars or pickup trucks, the injuries can be extremely serious. They may include:

  • Serious burns
  • Broken bones
  • Severe disfigurement
  • Amputations
  • Spinal cord injuries; paralysis
  • Permanent disability
  • Head trauma and brain injury
  • Wrongful death

Victims of severe injuries often face multiple surgeries and therapies, and require long-term care and treatment. An experienced attorney with proper support staff like Chaffin Luhana that has nurses on staff can help determine the cost of extended care, and help you prepare your best case in an effort to recover that amount, plus additional sums.

How an Oil and Gas Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help

Some oil companies are sacrificing safety in their pursuit of profits. Overworked and undertrained drivers are on the road, some of them under the influence of medications to stay awake, increasing risk of a crash and injury to themselves and others.

Those who have been injured or who have lost a loved one to a crash with an oil and gas truck may not be aware of the options they have for recovering damages. The personal injury lawyers at Chaffin Luhana can help. We will conduct a thorough investigation into the facts, to be sure we have all the evidence possible to present a strong case to a jury.

We represent individuals nationwide including in the Ohio Valley in West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. To find out how we can help you, contact us today.