Big Rigs and the Eagle Ford Shale–A Look at South-Central Texas’ Collision Epidemic

Nov 4, 2020 | Truck Accidents

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003-2013, the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry experienced remarkable growth. This growth led to a doubling of its workforce and an increase in the number of drilling rigs by 71%.

But the oil production boom comes at a price which is an increase in motor vehicle accidents. You see, with the new workforce pouring into South-Central Texas, determined to secure steady work and financial stability from oil plants. Combined with the already established local population in Eagle Ford Shale, this area has seen traffic accidents.

In fact, the countless lives affected by commercial motor vehicle accidents, specifically in the harsh brush-country of South-Central Texas, reflects a deeper issue that has not received adequate attention.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas saw a surge of traffic deaths in 2014. This includes the 272 lives lost on the roads of the Eagle Ford Shale–an increase of 13% from the previous year.

Is the spike in big rig collision related to the oil boom in the energy-rich lands of South-Central Texas?

A 2015 report released by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) says yes.
This study clearly supports the notion that the amount of drilling activity in an area, such as the Eagle Ford Shale, strongly correlates with the number of rural commercial vehicle crashes.
Based on data comparison from 2006-2009 and 2010-2013, research concludes with the following:

  • As the number of new wells in South-Central Texas increased by 131%;
  • Rural commercial motor vehicles (CMV) collisions increased by 62%;
  • Collision injury costs increased by 52%
  • Conversely, when drilling activities are reduced, so does the number of road accidents.

Common Causes of Big Rig Accidents

Driver fatigue
According to the Texas Trucking Association, the state is short nearly 50,000 truck drivers. That number is only expected to increase. Several factors contribute to this dilemma. First, a rapidly retiring workforce, coupled with a lack of interest from younger generations. Secondly, stagnant wages within the industry along with increasing freight loads. Thus truck drivers are burdened with longer working hours and less time to get from point A to point B. Simply put, truck drivers cannot keep up with oil production and thus are suffering immense fatigue.

Drug and alcohol use
Legal and illegal drug and alcohol use contributes to nearly 65,000 big rig accidents annually. Inconsistent drug and alcohol testing for CDL drivers operating a commercial vehicle is a significant issue. Furthermore, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 22 percent of truck drivers were driving while receiving disability benefits for epilepsy, alcohol addiction, or drug dependence.

Texting and driving
The likelihood of being involved in an accident on the road is 23.2 times higher for truck drivers who text while behind the wheel than for those who don’t.

Other common causes:

  • Overweight freight loads
  • Improper vehicle inspection and maintenance
  • Cargo security
  • Poor road conditions and infrastructure, especially in rural West Texas

What You Can Do to Prevent Road Fatalities

Road accidents involving big rigs and other commercial vehicles are likely to increase as oil production continues to rise in the areas of South-Central Texas. There are measures you can take to subdue the number of fatalities that are expected to occur in the future:

  • Drivers must adhere to limited work hours regulations, such as the 11-hour driving limit and 60-hour weekly duty limit. If the demand for new truck drivers is to be met, life on the road must be improved with shorter work hours and more time to rest.
  • Practice safe driving, for both truckers and passenger vehicles.
  • No tailgating, use turn signals, minimize lane changing, stay out of blind spots, use caution in work zones, and apply breaks early in inclement weather.
  • Logistics professionals must be aware of safety measures such as land transportation safety policies. Thus, they should conduct routine commercial vehicle inspections and proper freight load management. Doing so would further reduce drivers’ exposure to fatal road hazards.

Get the Justice You Deserve

Road fatalities and injuries involving big rig collisions are serious realities for both big rig operators and regular vehicle passengers. This is especially true on the treacherous, oil-rich roads that wind across the Eagle Ford Shale. Fortunately, there are lawyers who specialize in truck driving accident injury cases and can help you get the justice that you or your family deserve.

Disclaimer: This material is provided for informational purposes only. The provision of this material does not create an attorney-client relationship between the firm and the reader and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this newsletter are not a substitute for legal counsel. Do not take action in reliance on the contents of this material without seeking the advice of counsel.

The information contained in this blog may or may not reflect the most current legal developments. Accordingly, information in this blog is not promised or guaranteed to be correct or complete, and should not be relied upon as such. Readers should conduct their own appropriate legal research.

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