Truck Driving Accidents in South Texas – Fatigue

The Oil and Gas Industry has seen a tremendous increase in productivity over the last three years and a subsequent increase in trucking driving hiring and activity. Companies have hired thousands of new employees and have yet to slow down. Truck drivers are keeping highways busy from Laredo and Carrizo Springs all the way to San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Houston. Along with rapid production and workforce growth, there has been an increase in all types of accidents and work injuries, many fatigue-related.

Work Injuries and Accidents in South Texas are often Fatigue Related

As the oil and gas industry gains momentum, there are an increasing number of industrial trucks and 18 wheelers on the highways. Truck drivers suffering from sleep deprivation are a well-known danger on the road and a risk for an increased number of injuries and accidents. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic.

“Sleep is increasingly recognized as important to public health, with sleep insufficiency linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors. Unintentionally falling asleep, nodding off while driving, and having difficulty performing daily tasks because of sleepiness all may contribute to these hazardous outcomes,” states a CDC article entitled Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Epidemic.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, Drowsy Driving and Automobile Crashes, states that “Sleepiness causes auto crashes because it impairs performance and can ultimately lead to the inability to resist falling asleep at the wheel. Critical aspects of driving impairment associated with sleepiness are reaction time, vigilance, attention, and information processing.”

Do Hours of Service Exemptions in the Oilfield lead to Accidents?

Amber Stanford an attorney at The Nations Law Firm states that “in recent times, there have been more than 300 oil and gas workers killed in highway related accidents, in large part due to the oil field industry exemptions from highway safety rules. “These exemptions allowed truck drivers to work extended hours, but it is being abused by some employers now pressuring their employees to drive after shifts that frequently extend beyond 20 hours.” The lawyer goes on to comment that “The most unfortunate part is that these accidents are only expected to increase over the upcoming years as more than 200,000 new oil and gas wells are expected to be drilled nationwide. This will include between 500 and 1,500 truck trips per well, far more than what is currently required due to new drilling techniques. Although the wells will create many new jobs and economic benefits, it is coming at a deadly cost.”

Just because drivers are on an oilfield site does not make them any less vulnerable to the effects of fatigue and potential accidents. Yes, exemptions from federal hours of service regulations exist for oilfield service workers, but that doesn’t mean they have to be taken, much less abused. Sure, it’s tempting to both drivers and employers to use the exemptions to increase productivity and profitability. However once the cost to driver health and safety is factored in, burning the candle at both ends looks less like a viable standard operating procedure.

Eagle Ford Shale Conference

Del Mar College along with Texas A&M, Port of Corpus Christi, Work Source Solutions, Eagle Ford Shale Consortium, and the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to address this and many other related issues. On September 27th & 28th at the Solomon Ortiz Convention Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, Del Mar College will host the Eagle Ford Shale Conference. The conference will concentrate on topics such as:

  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Trucking (safety, regulations, requirements, training)
  • Railroad (capacity)
  • Shipping (barge/ship activity)
  • Pipeline (development, storage tanks, export oil)
  • CDL Driver Demand
  • Employment Opportunities
  • Safety Awareness
  • Community Growth and Opportunities

Visit the Eagle Ford Shale Conferences and Events page for more information.

The following two tabs change content below.
Devorah Fox, President - Mike Byrnes and Associates, Inc Authors of BUMPERTOBUMPER®, The Complete Guide to Tractor-Trailer Operations and the Easy CDL iPhone apps, Mike Byrnes and Associates, Inc. has helped launch successful commercial motor vehicle operator careers since 1987.


  1. Gary Yackel says:

    I haul crude daily and use the teletrac log system. It is impossible for me to work more than 14 hours a day (11 driving) without my saftey department knowing it. Anytime the truck is in motion, they know it. So, if drivers are working beyond the legal limits, it is the Company allowing it as they do have alternatives available, such as teletrac, to prevent illegal operation of a commercial vehicle. You cannot cheat this computerized system. Also, the customer knows if your are violating their safety procedures as well and will kick you off of their approved vendor’s list if you are in violation on the teletrac system.

  2. Exemptions? My tanker company travels outside the radius and has drivers driving up to 18-20 hrs a day…IN DAY-CABS!!! Sleep a couple of hours leaning your head against the window. Do this for a few days and you become a driving zombie. How do they do it legally? Have another office located in the next geographic location. If questioned, they declare the drivers to be driving out of that terminal. A deceptive yet legal technicality. State Hwy 181 (and surrounding areas) is a death trap filled with fatigued oilfield tanker drivers. Someone has to get a handle on this mess.

    • Companies face this problem daily. If they were operating with a sleeper that can easily log off duty sleeper, or they can log off duty if they can prove driver was not doing anything work related. The Oil field Companies are allowed to log “waiting time” but they have rest quarters that allows employees to shower, eat, watch tv, ect. This falls under the oil field exemption.

  3. Jesse Hernandez says:

    I have experienced this first hand as a crude oil tanker driver my employer does not enforce hours of driving to a max of 12 to 14 hours on occasion we will drive 16 to 20 hours but some drivers do enjoy the extra hours not me i would rather enjoy time with the family working decent work hours

  4. Dr. James C. Miller says:

    I’m available to help. Working from southeast Bexar County, I provide national consulting services based upon 40 years of applied research and development concerning human cognitive performance and fatigue for the US Departments of Defense and Transportation. Presently, I am the fatigue expert helping to implement the PHMSA control room management rule ( I’ve measured and analyzed human physical and cognitive performance in military and civil aviation; highway, rail and maritime transportation; and night and shift work. I’m the author of “Fatigue” in McGraw-Hill’s Controlling Pilot Error series (2001), of the primer “Fundamentals of Shiftwork Scheduling” (2006) for use in industry and the military, and the ASIS CRISP report “Fatigue Effects and Countermeasures in 24/7 Security Operations” (2010). Specialties:
    — Worker productivity and risk during 24/7 work
    — Driver performance in 24/7 transportation operations
    — Shiftwork schedule analysis and improvement
    — Environmental influences on human physiology
    — Circadian rhythms. Forensic investigations of accidents caused by poor vigilance, lack of sleep and night work

Add a Comment