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Higher Oil Prices Turn Texas Main Road Into The ‘Death Highway’

Pumpjack Midland

Rising oil prices have led to an increase in trucking of frac sand, water, oilfield equipment, pipes, and fuel in West Texas. Together with the higher truck traffic on a main road in Texas, fatalities involving truckers have surged since oil prices resumed their upward trend last year, according to data by the Texas Department of Transportation compiled by Bloomberg.

Long shifts behind the wheel, inexperienced truck drivers, and speeding on one of the main roads in Texas used for trucking sand, water, and equipment have earned Route 285 the name of the “Death Highway” among locals.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 93 people died in fatal accidents involving trucks in 2017 just on the Permian section of the “Death Highway”, a highway that runs for 845 miles through the states of Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. That’s 43 percent higher than the number of fatalities back in 2012.

According to locals, there is a correlation between the price of oil and the number of fatal accidents along the highway in Texas. The number of deaths dropped in 2015, when oil prices crashed, but they started to rise again with the rally in the price of oil.

Route 285 may very well be “the deadliest highway in the United States,” Ralph McIngvale, a partner at Permian Lodging, which builds and runs so-called man camps in the area, told Bloomberg.

“From Fort Stockton to Pecos area right now there is so much oil field traffic,” Pecos County sheriff Cliff Harris told a local TV news report last November.

While truckers are currently in high demand in Texas where the Permian oil production is booming, some new hires and inexperienced truck drivers are just trying to make as much money as they can, and they sometimes sit behind the wheel tired and don’t stop for rests.

“When you’ve been in the oilfield for ten to 11 days, working 14 hours a day, you just become so tired that you’re not thinking straight,” experienced trucker James ‘Whiskey’ Stroup, 57, tells Bloomberg.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has lowered speed limits in the area, but roads in Texas can’t be extended or built overnight, Sergeant Oscar Villarreal told Bloomberg, noting that roads haven’t had time to keep up with oil field truck traffic.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Dennis on July 30 2018 said:
    Tsvetana your great . Always interesting.

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