Stressed and Fatigued Permian Basin Truck Drivers Put Other Drivers at Risk

Reflection of a Semi-Truck in a MirrorThe Permian Basin is a highly productive shale patch that stretches across West Texas and Southeast New Mexico. While drilling and fracking on the patch have been very active in Texas for some time, it has only recently become active in New Mexico. This increased activity has meant an explosion of truck traffic along Route 285 in New Mexico and an increase in deadly collisions.

One of the factors that make this traffic so deadly is the condition of the truck drivers coming in and out of the oilfields. Driving these trucks in a time of high demand and growth means that drivers are often overworked, undertrained, fatigued, and distracted—a recipe for disaster on Route 285. If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a crash with an oilfield trucker in New Mexico, turn to the Permian Basin truck accident attorney at Keller & Keller. Our Albuquerque personal injury team is prepared to take on the trucker and Big Oil to get you the compensation you deserve.

How Permian Basin Truck Drivers Put You at Risk

The trucking industry has been experiencing driver shortages for years now, but it has gotten much worse since the COVID pandemic. In the Permian Basin region, truckers are in high demand due to the sudden and rapid growth of activity on the oilfields. Despite not having enough qualified, experienced drivers, production is increasing to try to meet the country’s demand for fossil fuels. This means that oil companies and trucking contractors could be hiring drivers who are not qualified and are overworking the drivers they do have. Risks of these practices include:

  • Fatigued drivers. Commercial truck drivers are subject to federal laws restricting the number of hours they can be on duty without resting. However, oilfield drivers have special exceptions that allow them to work on less rest. While truckers in other industries must take 34 hours off after 60 hours of driving, oilfield drivers only have to rest for 24 hours. Additionally, wait times don’t count as driving hours for oilfield drivers like they do for other drivers. So, the driver of an oil tanker, service vehicle, sand truck, equipment hauler, or water hauler could be required to wait 12 hours on site with no decent place to sleep and can then be expected to drive for 14 hours without rest. Even drivers who are adhering to federal regulations could be leaving an oilfield site with extreme fatigue.
  • Untrained drivers. Oilfield loading and unloading is highly specialized work. Drivers in the industry should be clear on how to safely load and unload cargo and how to properly inspect their specialized vehicles before and after each trip. When cost-cutting and time-saving measures mean that drivers are not adequately trained for the work they are doing on an oilfield, deadly accidents can occur.
  • Poor vehicle maintenance. Oilfield vehicles, including hazmat trucks, sand haulers, vacuum trucks, winch trucks, and swab rigs, take a beating on the field and on the roads. They require regular maintenance and repair. However, with the pressure on oil companies to produce as quickly as possible, these necessary repairs are often ignored and delayed in favor of keeping materials moving. Bad tires, broken turn signals, weak brakes, and unsecured cargo holds could cause a dangerous crash.

As a motorist on their way to work or a family heading out on vacation on Route 285, encountering an oilfield truck driver who is inexperienced, overtired, and stressed out driving a poorly maintained vehicle full of hazardous cargo could end in disaster. If you live in Carlsbad, Hobbs, or Las Cruces, and an oilfield truck driver causes a crash that leaves you injured, you will need an experienced New Mexico truck crash lawyer on your side as soon as possible. We will help you hold the negligent driver accountable for their actions. If the driver’s employer is guilty of negligent hiring or breaking federal law, we will go after them as well.

James R. Keller
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Partner at Keller & Keller
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