Fatigue and the Oilfield

The Oil and Gas Industry has seen a tremendous increase in productivity over the last three years. Companies have hired thousands of new employees and have yet to slow down in the South Texas area. Along with the rapid production and workforce growth, there has been an increase in all types of accidents and fatalities, many fatigue-related.

Fatigue-Related Accidents in South Texas

As the oil and gas industry gains momentum, there are an increasing number of industrial trucks on the highways. Truck drivers suffering from sleep deprivation are a well-known danger on the road. 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.”

Hours of Service Exemptions

Amber Stanford of 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,” and 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 1500 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. 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.