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Big Rigs and the Eagle Ford Shale–A Look at South-Central Texas’ Collision Epidemic

Posted on Thursday, June 27th, 2019 at 1:26 pm by Williams Hart   |  Updated: Tuesday, August 13th, 2019 at 9:20 am    

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003-2013 the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry experienced unprecedented growth leading to a doubling of its workforce and an increase in the number of drilling rigs by 71%. 

But with the oil production boom there comes a familiar price: the safety and lives of the workforce pouring into South-Central Texas, determined to secure steady work and financial stability, and the local population already settled in the 30 counties that make up the long stretch of oil-rich geological formations known as the Eagle Ford Shale.

The countless lives affected by commercial motor vehicle accidents, specifically in the harsh brush-country of South-Central Texas, is a reflection of a deeper issue that has not received adequate attention. 

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the state saw a surge of traffic deaths in 2014, including the 272 lives lost on the roads of the Eagle Ford Shale–an increase of 13% from the previous year. 

Is the spike in big rig accidents related to the oil boom that took place in the energy-rich lands of South-Central Texas? 

A 2015 report released by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) says yes.

The study clearly and concretely supports the notion that the amount of drilling activity in an area, such as the Eagle Ford Shale, is strongly correlated with the number of rural commercial vehicle crashes. 

Based on data comparison from 2006-2009 and 2010-2013, research concludes with the following: 

  • As the number of new wells in South-Central Texas increased by 131%;
    • Rural commercial motor vehicles (CMV) collisions increased by 62%;
    • Collision injury costs increased by 52%

Conversely, when drilling activity diminishes, so does the number road accidents.

Common Causes of Big Rig Accidents

  • Driver fatigue

According to the Texas Trucking Association, the state is short nearly 50,000 truck drivers and that number is only expected to increase. With a rapidly retiring workforce, lack of interest from younger generations, stagnant wages, and increasing freight loads, truck drivers are burdened with longer working hours and less time to get from point A to point B. Simply put, drivers cannot keep up with oil production and thus are suffering immense fatigue.

  • Drug and alcohol use

Legal and illegal drug and alcohol use contributes to nearly 65,000 big rig accidents annually. Inconsistent drug and alcohol testing for CDL drivers operating a commercial vehicle is a significant issue. Furthermore, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that 22 percent of truck drivers were driving while receiving disability benefits for epilepsy, alcohol addiction, or drug dependence.

  • Texting and driving

The likelihood of being involved in an accident on the road is 23.2 times higher for truck drivers who text while behind the wheel than for those who don’t. 

Other common causes: 

  • Overweight freight loads
  • Improper vehicle inspection and maintenance
  • Cargo security
  • Poor road conditions and infrastructure, especially in rural West Texas

Road Fatality Prevention Measures

As roadways continue to deteriorate under the weight of countless heavy truck fleets transporting crude oil out of the Eagle Ford Shale, officials have taken notice–and action. 

In 2012, the Texas Department of Transportation developed the Roads for Texas Energy task-force to assess road damage associated with oil and gas production activity in the Eagle Ford Shale regions. 

As of 2016, the task-force has continued addressing these issues by investing investing $569 million in funding to:

  • Prioritize corridors based on three-year average crash data
  • Improve pavement design and reinforcement in those corridors, such as adding turn lanes and shoulder lanes in key locations.

What You Can Do to Prevent Road Fatalities

Road accidents involving 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles are likely to increase as oil production continues to rise in the areas of South-Central Texas. There are measures you can take to subdue the number of fatalities that are expected to occur in the future:

  • Drivers must adhere to limited work hours regulations, such as the 11-hour driving limit and 60-hour weekly duty limit. If the demand for new truck drivers is to be met, life on the road must be improved with shorter work hours and more time to rest.
  • Practice safe driving, for both truckers and passenger vehicles
    • No tailgating, use turn signals, minimize lane changing, stay out of blind spots, use caution in work zones and in inclement weather, apply breaks early
  • Logistics professionals must be cognizant of safety measures such as land transportation safety policies, routine commercial vehicle inspections, and proper freight load management that would further reduce drivers’ exposure to fatal road hazards.

Get the Justice You Deserve

Road fatalities and injuries involving 18-wheelers are serious realities for both big rig operators and regular vehicle passengers, especially on the treacherous, oil-rich roads that wind across the Eagle Ford Shale. Fortunately, there are lawyers who specialize in truck driving accident injury cases and can help you get the justice that you or your family deserve.

If someone you love was seriously hurt or killed in an accident, you may be unsure of where to turn. The attorneys of Williams Hart have experience helping people through the aftermath of catastrophic accidents, and we can help you too. Contact our law firm at (713) 352-7071 to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

Note: We report on the types of accidents and injuries our law firm has experience handling. Our hearts go out to victims of the accidents described on this blog, and we hope that future accidents, injuries, and deaths can be prevented. These posts are gathered from recent stories in the news. As new developments occur, these stories are often updated. If information contained within this article is false or outdated, please contact us so we can include the new information or make a correction.

Disclaimer: Williams Hart hopes that by showing how often catastrophic accidents occur, we can begin a conversation about how to reduce or prevent them. We sincerely hope that the articles on our blog arm readers with the information needed to avoid being involved in such accidents. Content on this blog should not be construed as legal advice.

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