According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in 2012, 3,921 persons were killed in crashes involving large trucks. In addition to the 3,921 fatalities, 104,000 persons were injured in crashes involving large trucks. Texas had the dubious distinction of leading the nation in trucking injuries and deaths in that year. In fact, of the 3,921 fatalities reported that year by the FMCSA, 568 of those deaths resulted from 491 crashes in Texas. In other words, Texas’ 568 deaths in truck wrecks accounted for more than 14 percent of the fatalities suffered in truck wrecks in the entire country in 2012, and were more than 55 percent higher than the number of deaths from truck wrecks reported by the state with the next highest fatality rate from truck crashes – California.
Last week, I gave a presentation at the Texas Trial Lawyers Association Oil Rig and Construction Accident Seminar about the special exemptions some truck drivers have from the federal hours of service safety rules. These special exceptions allow for shorter mandatory rest periods and longer work hours, which leads to overworked and fatigued drivers. We are seeing an epidemic of truck crashes in the oilfields in the Eagle Ford Shale and the Permian Basin. The oil boom mentality leads to urgency to get things done, which in turn too frequently results in unqualified, inexperienced or fatigued drivers, operating faulty or poorly maintained equipment on local roads and in rural communities which are not prepared for high-volume industrial traffic. As a result, injuries and deaths have tripled in some areas. The Permian Basin is averaging more than a fatality per day from commercial truck crashes. Special exceptions to the safety rules, like the oilfield exemptions, substantially increase the risk to the driving public and should not be continued.