Permian Basin Oilfield Traffic Far Heavier Than Expected
Texas transportation officials apparently underestimated the impact of the unprecedented Permian Basin drilling boom, which has added even more oilfield trucks and other big rigs to the region’s roads and highways than previously believed.
As a Top Texas Oilfield Accident Lawyer, Ryan Zehl has won record-breaking settlements and verdicts against some of largest drilling and transportation companies in the world.
Permian Basin Roads Carrying 4-Times More Loads than Estimated
According to John Speed, district engineer with the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Odessa District, a recent study found that west Texas traffic is far heavier than estimated.
In fact, the region’s Permian Basin oilfield roads are carrying four-times more loads “than we ever imagined.” The load size is also much larger than expected, and exceeds the Department’s estimates by nearly 30%.
“The real challenge is continuous communication with the oil industry,” Speed told those attending the Permian Basin Petroleum Association’s membership luncheon last month. “They need to help us better predict where their loads will be, how large they will be and when. That lets us prioritize where we need to go next to help prevent road degradation.”
Permian Basin Oilfield Truck Accident Deaths Up 122%
With many Permian Basin roads now packed bumper-to-bumper with 18-wheelers and other big rigs, it’s no surprise that serious, and often fatal, traffic accidents are up sharply all across west Texas.
From 2016 through 2018, the state’s 12 Permian Basin counties saw motor vehicle crashes increase by 67%, while traffic-related fatalities rose by a stunning 97%. Accidents involving oilfield trucks and other commercial vehicle have surged by 160% since 2016, while related fatalities grew by 122%.
The Permian Basin region actually saw more fatal trucking crashes than any other region in Texas in 2018, despite housing less than 3% of the state’s total population.
“We’re seeing a level of activity out here that is absolutely hellacious, and the infrastructure hasn’t kept up with that,” James Beauchamp, the president of the Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance, recently told MarketPlace.
Permian Basin Oilfield Truck Drivers Key to Reducing Accident Rate
Infrastructure is definitely a problem, as the roads and highways throughout west Texas weren’t designed to handle the volume they’re seeing now.
TxDOT has already begun construction on 42 Permian Basin road improvement projects and expects to begin construction on another $100 million worth of projects before the end of August. The Department has also scheduled 31 additional projects for 2020 and 19 for 2021.
While the improvements will certainly help, many of the factors driving the Permian Basin’s high accident and fatality rate remain outside of TxDOT’s control.
With drivers trying to get in as many work hours as they can, fatigue ranks as one of the leading causes of west Texas oilfield truck accidents, Distracted driving is another problem, as 15% of Permian Basin truck drivers admitted to using Facebook or something similar right before a crash. Poor vehicle maintenance is also an issue.
“Drivers will be key to getting the accident rate down,” Speed noted. “Drivers will have the ultimate responsibility.”
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