Oil Boom Leads to Increase in Deadly Permian Basin Trucking Crashes

The Permian Basin is the home of some of Texas’ most productive oil fields. But it is also the home of one of Texas’ most deadly roads. Route 285 is a highway used to carry supplies to and from the oil fields of West Texas. However, locals have abandoned its formal name and now simply call it “Death Highway” because of an oil boom that led to a rise in fatal Permian Basin trucking crashes.

Route 285 runs through Pecos, Texas and Carlsbad, New Mexico. Many consider the highway to be the deadliest in the country.  In 2017, 93 people died in accidents involving trucks just on the Texas-side of the Permian Basin. That is about 43 percent more than in 2012.

There is a hard to miss correlation between the number of fatalities on the road and the price of oil. For example, in 2015, the number of traffic deaths involving big trucks shrank when oil prices collapsed. However, when crude oil prices surged in 2017, so did the number of Permian Basin trucking crashes on Route 285. This is because when crude oil rallies, the need for more truckers to drive huge 18-wheelers increases. These large trucks can carry anything from water and sand to steel pipes and fuel.

Why are Route 285 Permian Basin Trucking Crashes Occurring?

Locals know that drivers in passenger vehicles have to pay just as much attention to their rearview mirror as their front windshield. Truck drivers will often speed on the highway and because of the long hours, many of them too tired to safely operate any vehicle, let alone a large, heavy 18-wheeler. Truckers can work 14-hour shifts for several days.

Drivers in the Permian Basin are in such high demand that they can earn up to $120,000 a year. Also, many of these drivers are young and inexperienced.

This inexperienced pool of drivers is one of the many causes of the crashes. Young drivers tend to be more fearless than their more experienced counterparts. However, trainers in the Permian Basin report that the pool of drivers with two to three years or more of oilfield experience has “dwindled to nothing.” This essentially forces companies to substitute formal training for experience.

Another problem with the trucking in the area is that the trucks are often overloaded and carrying more weight than the truck is designed for. Further, trucks used to carry oil field supplies aren’t always properly maintained. Oil field trucks often require more maintenance than a regular on-the-road truck. When oil companies don’t maintain these trucks, small maintenance issues can turn into larger issues that lead to deadly crashes.

What is Texas Doing to Prevent Deaths on Route 285?

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is working to alleviate the problems along Route 285. For example, speed limits were once as high as 75 mph have since been lowered. Also, DPS has sent more troopers to monitor the roads and enforce speed limits. However, because of the number of drivers on the road, there is only so much that the troopers can do to prevent speeding.

Further, the size of the road plays a major factor in the number of accidents on the road. Roads in the Permian Basin oil fields can’t keep up with the significant growth in the area. Different parts of the highway have four lanes, three lanes or two lanes. With the amount of increasing traffic and the fluctuation in lane amounts, truckers and passenger vehicle drivers have to constantly think about merging. Unfortunately, Texas can’t widen roads overnight — a solution experts believe will eliminate the majority of Permian Basin trucking crashes.

Permian Basin Trucking Crashes: Get the Legal Help You Need with a Qualified Carlson Law Firm 18-Wheeler Crash Lawyer

Commercial vehicle accidents can lead to far more severe injuries. If you lost a loved one or were severely injured in a Permian Basin trucking crash, contact The Carlson Law Firm for aggressive representation. We have 12 locations across the state and more than 40 attorneys with the experience you need on your team.


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