Oil Field Workers Face Serious Dangers On the Road

Imagine driving home after working 17 hours straight on an oil field. The fatigue oil field workers experience after laboring for long hours in sometimes extreme weather conditions should be no surprise. Unfortunately, such fatigue frequently leads to motor vehicle accidents. Such accidents are the number one cause of fatalities in the oil industry.

In the past 10 years, over 300 workers in the oil and gas industry have lost their lives in highway collisions including truck accidents. Many of these deaths can be traced to fatigued drivers, and exemptions oil field workers get from highway safety rules. These rules limit the amount of hours drivers in most other industries can work, but for nearly 50 years the oil industry has enjoyed exemptions from these regulations.

The New York Times reported that many truckers in the oil field industry are regularly pressured into driving following shifts that are 20 or more hours long. Most commercial truckers are prohibited from driving for more than 14 hours after they begin their workday. Drivers in the oil and gas field industry are allowed to bend the rules and not count time spent waiting at well sites, waits which can sometimes be over 10 hours.

Oil and gas truckers are also allowed to take only 24 hours off every seven days instead of the 34 hours commercial truckers are required to rest. Such exemptions were granted to the industry back in the 1960s when oil and gas company representatives argued that their workers needed greater flexibility. Since then safety groups, including the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and federal highway authorities, have been lobbying to end the exemptions without any success.

Source: The New York Times, “Deadliest Danger Isn’t at the Rig but on the Road,” Ian Urbina, May 14, 2012.