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Dangers of Frac Sand Trucking Accidents in the Permian Basin

The Permian Basin has become the breadbasket of the oil and gas industries in Texas, resulting in a massive fleet of trucks running each day throughout this region. Among these high-powered vehicles are frac sand trucks, which provide critical material to the various oil wells in Permian Basin and the Midland oilfields. This material is utilized in the fracking process, which has allowed the energy industry to access a large surplus of oil and gas, but it requires an equally large amount of sand. One well can consume roughly 50 million pounds of frac sand and would require a constant supply from trucking companies.

A Day in the Life of a Frac Sand Driver

Local roadways around the Permian Basin are congested with big rigs, including numerous frac sand trucks. This heavy truck traffic stirs up excessive amounts of dust and dramatically increases the risk of an accident, but trucks hauling frac sand are a particular danger. Drivers are often overworked, traveling over 100 miles in a single 12-hour shift at any time of day. Some may end up working six days a week and pushing the limits of the required maximum driving periods. These intense schedules can lead to driver fatigue and increase the risk of a crash.

No Specialized Training Required for Many Frac Sand Truck Drivers

Two types of trucks are used to haul frac sand in the Permian Basin – pneumatic (belly dump) trucks, and sandbox containers placed on flatbed trailers. Drivers of pneumatic trucks are required to have specific training, but to drive a sandbox truck, you only need a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The demand for truck drivers is very high, and many drivers arriving in the Permian Basin hired to drive the sandboxes have little or no experience with oil patches or similar road conditions.

Challenges of Transporting Fracking Materials

In a recent report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), analysts identified two major factors that contribute to frac sand trucking accidents in West Texas, including:

  • Increase in truck traffic on local roads that were not designed for such heavy traffic; and
  • Exceptions to the traditional hours of service for truckers who supply oilfield operations that protect against driver fatigue.

When drivers transport equipment for oilfield operations, they are required to have “highly specialized training” and can restart their driving hours after 24-hours, rather than the standard 34-hour rest period most truckers are required to take. This means that they will end up on the road more often and are more likely to become fatigued.

However, another exception for specialized drivers, such as those who drive pneumatic trucks, allows them to count the time they wait at an oil-field to their maximum 14-hour driving periods. Logically, this would mean that they would spend a portion of their “driving hours” resting and waiting for frac sand to be unloaded, though it is not clear how much they actually rest during this period. The major issue is that this exception does not apply to standard frac sand drivers who are only required to have a CDL. They will ultimately spend more hours driving than specialized drivers, resulting in a higher risk of driving drowsy.

What Are Your Options If You Have Been Injured in a Frac Sand Trucking Accident?

The size and weight of frac sand trucks can result in devastating accidents and multiple injuries, some of which may be fatal. Whether it is the fault of a trucking company who did not properly screen new hires or a trucker who disobeyed the required rest period, you have a right to pursue compensation in a frac sand trucking accident.

Trucking accident claims can be complicated, often involving multiple liable parties and complex accident conditions. Sorting through evidence, witness statements, and insurance policies requires the talent and knowledge of an experienced attorney. The Texas trucking accident lawyers at Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP have handled multiple large truck accident cases in the Permian Basin and have a thorough understanding of the trucking and oil companies who work there. Call us at (903) 207-5526 to schedule a free initial consultation to review your case and learn what your options are under the law.