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Large tractor trailers weigh many tons more than even the safest minivan or SUV, so the dangers posed by tractor trailers on the road should be clear to anyone. However, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has numerous regulations designed to ensure that trucks are well-maintained, and being operated safely. These regulations include strict rules to prevent drivers from becoming overly fatigued. Drivers must keep logs of driving times, and the NTSB regulations are designed to ensure that no truck driver is being asked to drive for too many hours without sleep. While these government regulations certainly don’t put a complete stop to tractor-trailer accidents, they go a long way toward ensuring that large trucks are being operated safely on our highways.
Knowing all this, we were appalled by a New York Times article (you can read it here) about the number of fatalities among a certain segment of Americans whose work involves truck driving. More than 300 workers in the oil and gas industry have died in highway crashes in the past decade. Many of these accidents were caused by fatigued drivers falling asleep at the wheel, after being expected to drive shifts of 20 hours or more without rest. This is apparently happening because oil and gas workers are exempted from the NTSB rules that apply to truck drivers in every other industry. These exemptions must have been the result of wrangling by the powerful oil and gas lobbies in Washington DC, but the end result is an epidemic of deaths among oil and gas workers, and a very dangerous situation for every American who finds themselves driving on our nation’s roadways.
Traditionally, America was not the location of much oil drilling. Only in Texas did people have much exposure to the day-to-day activities of drilling for oil and gas. In the last ten years, however, there has been an enormous nationwide increase in hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking”. As new drilling operations have gone into action across the country, less and less experienced workers have begun filling positions on the job, and old and poorly maintained vehicles have been brought into service at drilling sites. The combined effect has been a huge increase in the number of fatal accidents. When the federal government noted that fatalities among oil and gas workers were rising, they asked the CDC to investigate in 2005. The CDC found that not only were more oil and gas workers dying, but the fatality rate as a percentage of the labor force was increasing as well. This means that as the oil and gas industry in America has steadily grown in size, what has always been a dangerous field of work has been getting more and more risky as it grows. Much of this can be traced to the oil and gas industry’s exemption from NTSB trucking safety regulations. Fatigued oil and gas drivers are causing fatal crashes, and are not being held to the safety standards that any other truck driver would be. This situation is worsening, and we hope the New York Times coverage provides the spark needed to make immediate policy changes at the highest levels.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident with a tractor-trailer, call the experienced Orlando truck accident attorneys at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter today. We can help.