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Why Commercial Truck Crashes Involving ProPetro Services Are Different

In some respects, most commercial vehicle accidents are fairly similar. In every case, the burden is on you as the victim to prove that the negligence of the trucking company's employees caused the harms you've suffered. However, these vehicles are used in a wide variety of industries, each of which has its own unique issues to investigate.

When an oilfield vehicle, like those used by ProPetro Services, is involved, the regulatory exceptions made for these vehicles can increase the risk of crashes due to fatigue. To ensure that you're able to find out whether this was the case in the collision that harmed you, it's important to have the help of a truck accident attorney able to perform a thorough independent investigation of what happened. Dallas 18-wheeler accident attorney Michael Grossman explains.

Questions Answered on This Page:

  • What is ProPetro Services?
  • How many crashes involving injury or death has the company been involved in?
  • How do the regulatory exemptions available to oilfield vehicle drivers affect claims against ProPetro?

Crash statistics from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data

What is ProPetro Services?

Midland-based oilfield services company ProPetro Services operates the 71st- largest private trucking fleet in the U.S., with nearly 800 vehicles and almost 600 drivers. Those trucks traveled more than 2 million miles in 2017, with the company as a whole generating a billion dollars in revenue that year.

Federal government data indicates the company's vehicles have been involved in 8 crashes over the last two years, of which 5 have involved injuries and 1 has resulted in at least one person's death. We should note that these numbers don't allow us to determine who was at fault for any of these crashes, only that they involved a ProPetro vehicle.

While driving in the oilfield services sector isn't inherently more dangerous than any other type of trucking, special exemptions for drivers in the energy industry give them a unique latitude with regard to hours of service rules. If a driver for ProPetro takes advantage of those exceptions to drive without getting a safe amount of sleep (or is ordered to do so) it could easily increase the risk of a crash.

How the Oilfield Exception Affects Your Case Against ProPetro Services

For most people, their employer isn't especially concerned with how much sleep they get, as long as missing it doesn't affect their job performance. However, this is largely because most employers don't have too much to lose from their employees' mistakes. At worst, a worker's sleep-induced errors will result in embarrassment, discipline, and eventual termination.

By contrast, when those employees are behind the wheel of large commercial vehicles, their lack of sleep doesn't just hinder their ability to do their jobs; it endangers everyone else on the road. Recognizing this danger, the federal government imposes specific regulations restricting the amount of time truckers are allowed to be on-duty without break and rest periods.

For most commercial drivers, these limits are 14 hours of on-duty time for each 24 hour period, with only 11 hours of that time allowed to be spent driving and a 10-hour break required between work periods, as well as a mandatory 30-minute break at least once every eight hours. Eight hours of the 10-hour break must also be spent in the sleeper berth. There are also limits on the number of hours operators can be on duty each week, with 34 hours of non-working time required before work can begin again.

While in theory drivers can always refuse to drive beyond the limit of what's safe, the threat of being fired is a strong disincentive to doing so.

While vehicles operating in extractive industries aren't entirely exempt from hours-of-service regulations, there are three differences, known as "oilfield exceptions," that give them a bit more wiggle room than most commercial drivers. The first of these exemptions allows drivers of oilfield vehicles to restart their weekly work period after a 24-hour break, rather than the 34 hours required for other commercial drivers. A second allows for operators of certain specially designed vehicles to count time spent waiting at well sites as off-duty time for hours-of-service purposes. Finally, drivers of trucks eligible for the waiting exemption can also count two sleep breaks of at least two hours as equivalent to a 10-hour break.

While there may be a case to be made for them, all of these exemptions allow drivers working in the energy industry to work significantly longer, and with fewer breaks, than those moving other types of freight. And that's virtually guaranteed to increase the amount of time some drivers are working without sleep. Although not all of this added time is spent driving, operators are still becoming more fatigued while they're waiting at a drill site.

There may be legitimate arguments for these exceptions, but the fact remains that they give employers in the oil and natural gas sector significantly more latitude than those in other branches of commercial transportation to order their drivers to work longer with less sleep. How many drivers are being told to violate even the exempted guidelines on the vague grounds that "we have different rules?" While in theory someone can always refuse to drive beyond the limit of what's safe, the threat of being fired acts as a pretty strong disincentive to doing so.

As much as these exceptions may contribute to exhaustion-related crashes, only a full independent investigation, and an attorney with subpoena power to obtain evidence from the trucking company, can determine what actually happened, and prove it to the extent required to obtain compensation. Vital equipment and documents like in-cab video recorders, engine control modules showing the vehicle's behavior before the crash, and electronic logs of hours worked, are all essential to proving your case against the trucking company.

Grossman Law Offices Has The Experience to Litigate Your Claim Against ProPetro Services

The regulatory exceptions the government has put in place for oilfield vehicles are just some of the hundreds of considerations that enter into a crash involving one. That's why it's so important to have the help of an attorney with extensive experience taking on these challenging cases.

At Grossman Law Offices, we've been successfully litigating cases against trucking companies of all sizes and across all segments of the industry for nearly 30 years. That means we have an extensive familiarity with all of the efforts a trucking company has at their disposal to avoid accountability, as well as the best ways to overcome them. And unlike some firms, we take pride in keeping our clients in the loop from the first phone call to final resolution of their case.

If you've been injured or lost a loved one in a collision involving a ProPetro Services vehicle, please call (855) 326-0000 to find out how our attorneys can help. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to hear your story.

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