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Oil Workers and Motorists Endangered By Extended Working Hours

By Orlando Personal Injury Attorney on May 18, 2012

After working a very long 17-hour shift, Tim Roth and three coworkers began their trip home from their worksite, a natural gas well in Ohio. They hit the road around ten in the evening for the four-hour trip back home to West Virginia. When they were just ten minutes away from home, the driver fell asleep at the wheel, causing their truck to drift off the highway, where it struck a sign. The impact tore one side off the truck, killing Mr. Roth and injuring his three coworkers. The fatal crash came two months after another incident when another worker from the same company fell asleep at the wheel driving home after a long shift and struck a utility pole, nearly killing Roth.

In 2009, Roth’s employer was cited and penalized in Utah, Pennsylvania and New York for several violations, including "requiring or permitting" its oil field truckers to drive crews home from worksites after working for 145 hours, the legal limit. This sad incident involving Roth and his coworkers is one of many similar incidents in recent years involving workers in the oil and gas industry. Since 2002, more than 300 workers in the industry have been killed in auto accidents, the single-largest cause of fatalities in the industry. Truck drivers who earn a living in oil fields are exempt from most highway safety rules that limit how long they can be behind the wheel without rest. Many truckers in the industry say that while they enjoy the extra income the long hours provide, the oil field exemptions are routinely used to pressure them into driving after shifts lasting as long as 20 hours.

One oil field driver alerted authorities to the scope of the problem. Garr Farrell drives oil trucks in Texas and had seen enough close calls to write highway safety officials about the problem.

"Just because you are on an oil field site does not make you any less vulnerable to the effects of fatigue!" he said.

In his letter, he told officials that his managers had used the oil field exemptions to force him to wait for 36 hours at one well site before he could unload his supplies without providing him a place to sleep while waiting.

The National Transportation Safety Board has publicly stated that they "strongly oppose" the oil field exemptions due to well-founded safety concerns and expect the problems to worsen in the coming years. More than 200,000 new oil and gas wells will be drilled all over the country in the next decade, leading to many more trucks – and fatigued drivers – on the road.

Orlando personal injury attorney James O. Cunningham has also expressed concern about fatigued oil and gas drivers on our state’s roadways. There are drilling sites throughout Florida, and a tired driver is a serious concern and persistent danger to all motorists here and throughout the rest of the country. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a fatigued driver and want to learn more about your legal options, call 888-425-2004 today to schedule a free consultation with Mr. Cunningham. Call today to get an experienced and aggressive Florida personal injury lawyer on your side.

James O. Cunningham

Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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