Whose Highways Are These, Anyway?

About a month ago, we noted that the out-of-control expansion of fracking in the Marcellus Shale region was also increasing the risks of serious Pennsylvania traffic accidents. Each gas well needs to be serviced by energy company trucks delivering supplies, chemicals, and machinery—a total of hundreds of trips for every drilling site. This means roads and bridges will need more frequent repairs, funded by the Pennsylvania taxpayers. Traffic will be congested more often. Collisions will occur more often. We painted a pretty bleak picture.

Nobody can predict the future with 100 percent accuracy, of course. Unfortunately, new evidence is emerging that suggests our earlier forecasts were a little too optimistic.

The physics of truck collisions

Trucks are far more massive than a conventional passenger sedan. When two vehicles collide, the momentum (which can throw people around the car’s interior or through a window) and energy (which fractures limbs and bruises flesh) of the event are each proportional to the mass of the other vehicle. A speeding truck’s energy and momentum are transferred to the car and its passengers, causing critical injuries. That’s why fatal truck accidents are all too common.

How driver fatigue makes fracking trucks more dangerous

Fatigue is a notorious problem in the trucking industry. Safety rules exist to limit drivers’ working hours, but many companies and drivers fail to take those limits seriously. According to an industry estimate, truck driver fatigue is believed to be partly responsible for 30 to 40 percent of all truck accidents.

Here’s the capper: much of the energy industry is not covered by those limits to drivers’ work hours. These special exemptions “are routinely used to pressure workers into driving after shifts that are 20 hours or longer,” according to a New York Times report on the risks from energy industry trucking accidents.

The article goes on to warn that the expansion of fracking gas exploration will make transportation risks skyrocket. The New York Times points out that fatality rates in the energy industry are already seven times the average for all businesses, and that a third of those deaths are due to highway crashes. And, of course, that statistics doesn’t take into account the deaths of other people who are involved in Pennsylvania traffic collisions with fracking trucks.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Transportation Department ruled that the workday exemption for oil and gas sites does not extend to truckers hauling sand and water on public roads to fracking sites. At this point, it’s not clear whether that ruling will help: truckers who put in 16- or 20-hour days on the site still have to drive back—in a highly fatigued condition—to their homes or hotels after their shifts are completed. And the energy companies will just hire more and more truckers, which will lead to further congestion on Pennsylvania’s highways and rural roads.

Pennsylvania: The prime target for fracking traffic crashes

Experts predict that Pennsylvania will continue to dominate U.S. natural gas production for years to come. So any industry transportation problems will be concentrated here. And there are plenty of problems. Some 40 percent of oil and gas industry trucks inspected by Pennsylvania state police over the last three years had to be taken off the road due to their poor condition.

The combination of too many trucks, sleep-deprived truckers, ramshackle vehicles, and dangerous roads is a nightmare for anyone who cares about roadway safety. Do the economic benefits of fracking justify those risks for motorists? A recent editorial in The Ledger of Lakeland, Florida, examines industry claims and concludes, “their arguments ring hollow when measured against the reality of needless deaths.”

Standing up to the energy companies

The Big Energy companies think they can intimidate everyone in Pennsylvania just because they have enormous amounts of money and the support of Harrisburg political insiders. They’re wrong. Jon Ostroff is not afraid to stand up to them.

If you have been injured in a traffic accident caused by an energy company truck, you need to find out whether you can get compensation for your hospital care, disability, pain, and other losses. You need to contact Ostroff Injury Law as soon as possible.

Jon Ostroff is Pennsylvania’s preeminent fracking injury lawyer. His team is ready to fight the energy companies to get you all the compensation you deserve after your fracking injury. Call today at (855) 880-6667 or fill in the online form to get a FREE, no-obligation evaluation of your case.