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Texas Takes Steps To Reduce Oil Field Truck Accidents

December 4th, 2014

The Texas Department of Transportation is intensifying its efforts to reduce the number of oil field truck accidents occurring in the state’s new oil patches. The agency recently enacted an emergency rule change that allows it to call for reductions in the speed limit on some state roads in as little as four weeks. The previous rules called for reviews that would take months, but the new rules were established after a series of oil field truck accidents in both the Barnett Shale in North Texas and the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas.

Oil Field Truck Accidents On The Rise

The recent drilling boom in the state’s oil shale formations have led to an increase in heavy truck traffic on roads that were never designed to carry such traffic. The increase in traffic has led to an increase in the number of oil field truck accidents. A TxDOT study found that the number of fatal oil field truck accidents rose by 240 percent from 2009 to 2013 in the oil patches of South and West Texas, an increase of nearly five times the rate of the rest of the state.

Speed Limits Seek To Reduce Oil Field Truck Accidents

The emergency speed limit measure seeks to reduce oil field truck accidents on the rural roads most affected by the high traffic volumes and heavy trucks. The rules will allow TxDOT to reduce speed limits by as much as 12 miles per hour on the targeted roads. The rule change covers two-lane roads with two-way traffic that are no more than 24 feet wide and are part of the Texas highway system. The speed limit reduction does not cover the interstate highways that run through Texas, as those are administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Oil Field Truck Accident Rate Higher in Bee County

One site that may see the reduced speed limits immediately is Bee County in South Texas. The TxDOT report revealed that the oil field truck accident rate in rural Bee County was three times the statewide average. Bee County lies near the center of the Eagle Ford Shale, a region that has seen a noticeable increase in drilling activity, as well as an increase in heavy truck traffic along its two-lane rural roads. TxDOT officials believe that the move to lower the speed limits on Bee County’s Texas roads will reduce the oil field truck accident rate.

TxDOT: Oil Field Truck Accidents “An Imminent Safety Condition”

TxDOT Deputy Executive Director John Barton cited the rise in oil field truck accidents as “an imminent safety concern” that calls on his agency “to be more nimble” in its response. Higher truck volume, heavier loads and deteriorating road surfaces have all contributed to the increase in oil field truck accidents. A referendum to earmark a portion of the state’s oil and gas production taxes to the state’s highway fund passed overwhelmingly in November. TxDOT and other state officials have proposed setting aside up to 20 percent of those funds to improving roads in the drilling shale regions.

Source: Texas Tribune

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