Federal regulations exist to mandate the number of hours a commercial driver may work before taking a mandatory rest period. These regulations are meant to protect both the drivers and other people on the road. Shift hour regulations play such an important role in public safety that there are current motions in the works to make them stricter and enforce more rest time for drivers. In spite of this trend, employers of commercial drivers in the oil and gas industry have been given dispensations which allow them to enforce longer and unsafe shifts for drivers.
Current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations dictate that commercial drivers must stop driving no more than 14 hours after the start of their work day; they must also take off for at least 34 hours after working a total of 60 hours in seven consecutive days. Oil and gas industry drivers, however, do not have to count time spent waiting at well sites as part of their hours; the result is that industry employers can force drivers to continue working and driving even after they have been on-duty for 20 or more hours. Clearly, this dispensation is putting employees at risk: of the 648 oil field worker deaths that occurred between 2003-08, nearly one third of them were the result of vehicle accidents, according to statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Compounding the problem for these drivers is the fact that the vehicles they are given to operate are often in terrible repair. In fact, of the 2200 oil and gas industry trucks inspected by the Pennsylvania State Police between 2009 and February of this year, 40 % had to be removed from the road because they were no longer in operable condition.
In 2010, the Federal government proposed changes to FMCSA regulations that would eliminate safety exceptions made for the oil and gas industry. Despite the support of National Transportation Safety Board representatives, the FMCSA listened to the outcry from the oil and gas industry and, in December of 2011, declined to eliminate the exemptions, making the statement that they, "had been in place for nearly 50 years."
The number of Americans killed in vehicle crashes has steadily decreased over the past few years, yet, according to federal transportation data, the number of deaths resulting from crashes involving large trucks increased by 8.7% between 2009 and 2010, the most recent year for which data is available. Clearly, more work needs to be done to keep all commercial drivers safe from fatigue-related hazards. If you have been injured in a truck accident involving a fatigued driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a truck accident attorney from Arnold & Itkin today for a free consultation regarding your case.