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​Wild Ride: The Perils of Oilfield Trucking

by | Oct 20, 2022 | Blog, Oilfield Accidents, Personal Injury, Truck Accidents, Workplace Accidents, Wrongful Death

The Permian Basin is the busiest oil field in the country. This oil field accounts for roughly 40 percent of the United States’ production. In addition, producers drill large amounts of natural gas in the Permian. There are over seven thousand oil fields in this massive area, and new drilling occurs daily.

With oil prices in a long-term bull market, production is increasing in the Permian Basin. After 2021, it produced 3.5 million barrels per day. In light of the recent spike in oil prices, producers are rushing to secure more permits and drill in more areas.

The more drilling that occurs, the more trucks and truck drivers that are necessary to facilitate operations. While driving a truck in the oilfield can be lucrative work, it also puts drivers at risk of serious accidents and injuries. Truck accidents can be devastating, and they can put your career – and your life – on hold indefinitely.

Obtaining legal relief following an oilfield truck crash can be challenging, but an experienced oilfield injury attorney can help. Always seek medical attention and then consult with a lawyer for free about your legal options.

Why There Are Massive Amounts of Trucks in the Oil Patch

Oilfield TruckingThe significant increase in Permian Basin production means more trucks travel to and from the area.

In Texas oilfields, trucks:

  • Bring sand to the area for fracking
  • Transport heavy equipment to and from the oilfield
  • Ship fuels and finished products from the oilfield

Statistics show how staggering the amount of truck traffic is in the area. Producers need large amounts of water and sand to extract the oil from the ground. However, these are not found locally in the area and get trucked into the oilfield. Over a billion tons of freight get shipped over these road networks, and the number is continuously growing. Each day, there are over 100,000 fully loaded truck trips.

In addition to the tractor-trailers in the area, there are also numerous tanker trucks. Some of these trucks are carrying hazardous materials. Tanker trucks present their own dangers because they are much more likely to be involved in rollover accidents. In addition, when tanker trucks spill their cargo onto the roadway, they can cause drivers in the area to lose control of their vehicles.

The Oilfield Is a Uniquely Dangerous Area for Motorists

The Permian Basin was already known as a hazardous area in which to drive. The Permian Basin has experienced numerous fatal car crashes, where drivers and their passengers got hit by trucks coming to and from the oilfield. Road safety is a stubborn issue, And efforts to improve the situation have not made any headway. The continuous construction necessary to repair the damage that heavy trucks cause to the surface makes the roadways even more dangerous.

Things have gotten so bad in the Permian Basin that locals have called U.S. 285 the Death Highway. In one recent year, 49 accidents took place on a 20-mile stretch of the roadway right inside the Texas side of the New Mexico border. Oilfield trucks make the situation even more dangerous because they leave the highway to avoid traffic. Large trucks on local roads can make the situation intolerable for residents.

Trucking Companies Have Driver Shortages

The oil industry is just like every other profession in the country these days in that it cannot find enough workers to staff all of its necessary needs. There is a critical shortage of truck drivers nationally, as companies cannot quickly replace retiring experienced drivers.

Oilfield trucking requires even more skill and experience than the usual truck driver. Given the extreme challenges of traffic and the local conditions, truck drivers must use their full range of skill and Judgment at all times.

In practice, however, hiring skilled drivers is not always what happens. There are numerous fatal truck accidents where drivers have been negligent or reckless. For example, two oil field workers were killed in one crash when a truck hauling fracking sand crossed the center line and struck their vehicle. An investigation showed that the truck driver was using his mobile device at the time of the accident.

Truck Drivers Take Risks to Make it on Time

Truck drivers in the area have developed a culture of risk where they may not fully follow necessary traffic laws. The oil industry places truck drivers under immense time pressure, and they may cut corners to remain on schedule. Unfortunately, passenger car drivers are the ones who bear the costs, and they may pay for it with their lives.

Local residents are at risk, and oil field workers also face danger. They must travel to and from the oilfield area using the same roads as the heavy trucks. One study found that 40 percent of oil field workers killed on the job perished in transportation accidents. Many of these crashes occurred with heavy trucks in the area.

Causes of Texas Oilfield Trucking Accidents

Here are some common causes of oil field truck accidents in Texas:

  • Inexperienced drivers misjudge the road conditions
  • Truck operators speed to stay on schedule or make up time
  • Distracted drivers who are on their mobile devices or doing something else behind the wheel besides driving
  • Equipment failures caused by shortcuts in truck inspections and maintenance
  • Rollover accidents occur when cargo gets carelessly loaded onto the truck
  • Reckless driving by operators who have little to no regard for traffic laws or your safety

Oilfield Truck Accident Victims Are Often Seriously Injured

The stakes are very high if you or a loved one suffered an injury in an oil field truck accident. Chances are that the combination of a large truck and the reckless manner in which the driver drove it has caused you serious injuries.

An oil field truck accident may cause:

  • Broken bones
  • Severe cuts and lacerations
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Burns
  • Internal injuries and organ damage
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Permanent scarring and disfigurement

Proving Negligence in an Oilfield Truck Accident Case

To recover financial compensation for these injuries, you must meet the legal standard in any other truck accident case. Your legal burden is to show that the truck driver was negligent in the accident that injured you.

Negligence is a legal test that compares what the truck driver did to what an ordinary operator might have done under the circumstances. Every truck driver on the road owes you a duty of care to act reasonably. They violate this duty of care when they are careless or reckless. If you can prove that what they did falls short of their duty of care, you will be in a position to receive financial compensation for your injuries.

Just because you were involved in an accident does not automatically mean that the oil field truck driver was to blame. You have the burden of proof to show that you deserve financial compensation. You must come up with the evidence necessary to demonstrate what the driver did to cause the accident.

The Trucking Company Must Pay for Its Driver’s Negligence

There are far more factors at play in an oil field truck accident. Not only are you looking to show what this particular driver did, but you may also be trying to prove what their employer can have done wrong that contributed to the accident. Your attorney will seek various records proving that the trucking company also broke the law.

When you are suing for a truck accident, you file a claim against the company that employed the truck driver. Every operator a trucking company employs is their agent for purposes of liability. So long as the truck driver was on the job and acting within the scope of their employment, their employer will be fully liable to pay for the damages that the truck driver caused.

Companies Make Large Profits Trucking for the Oil Industry

Oilfield trucking is a big business. The oil companies profit immensely from the trade in the area, and the companies with which they contract also make large amounts of money.

Numerous companies specialize in oilfield Transportation, including:

  • Smith Oilfield Services
  • W.M. Dewey & Sons
  • Brady Trucking
  • Lone Star
  • Schneider
  • VDM Trucking
  • Stevens Trucking

These companies offer many services, including light and heavy hauling. When their drivers make trips to and from oil fields for oil companies, they bear liability for accidents.

Oilfield Trucking Companies Have Large Insurance Policies

Given the profits these trucking companies earn, it makes all the economic sense in the world to have a significant insurance policy to protect them when their drivers cause injuries. If you or a loved one have suffered an injury in a trucking accident, you have likely suffered more significant damages and more money available to pay for the harm. However, you must take decisive legal action to get every dollar you deserve in a truck accident settlement.

Why You Need an Experienced Oilfield Truck Accident Attorney on Your Side

The insurance companies will not willingly give you the money on their own without significant prompting on your part. They will not fear you until you come to the table with an experienced truck accident lawyer who knows how to hold them accountable. Given the money at stake, you should not attempt to handle your claim alone. You will end up with a shorter end of the stick when you try to deal with the insurance company by yourself.

Your oil field truck accident attorney can:

  • Counsel you on your legal options and answer any questions that you may have
  • Investigate the accident to determine the cause and figure out who may be legally responsible for the crash
  • Assemble the proof that is necessary for you to demonstrate that someone else was negligent
  • Review your situation to determine the amount of damages that you have suffered
  • Help you decide on the appropriate legal strategy to most effectively obtain financial compensation for your injuries
  • Prepare your claim to the insurance company or your lawsuit that you will file in court
  • Negotiate a potential settlement with the insurance company that will fairly compensate you
  • Take your case to court if the insurance company will not fully pay for your damages

Trucking Companies Want to Remain in Business

Lawyers of Distinction AwardThe trucking company has plenty at stake too. Juries have been increasingly asserting themselves in what is known as nuclear verdicts. These verdicts are heavily disproportionate to the amount of damages actually caused, as the juries impose serious punitive damages on the defendant.

For example, in one case, a jury broke the previous record by slapping an oilfield services company with a $101 million verdict for an accident involving a truck transporting fracking materials. In this case, even though the accident victim survived the crash, the jury found the trucking company’s conduct egregious and shocking. The truck driver tested positive for drugs after the accident, and the jury found that the trucking company had numerous opportunities to pull the driver off the road and did not.

The case is still in court, as the court reduced the original verdict and granted the trucking company a new trial. Still, the case shows the trucking company’s risk and the importance of them settling a case when they have the chance.

When you hire an experienced truck accident lawyer, they know how to work with this fear, especially when the facts and law are on your side. Your personal injury lawyer will fight for your legal rights and work to maximize your financial compensation.

You should not bear the risk of the trucking company’s negligence, nor should you pay the price for the oil company’s profits. Instead, you can work with an aggressive truck accident lawyer to hold everyone responsible for your injuries accountable and obtain fair financial compensation. You should begin the legal process as soon as you can.