Trucking Horror Stories From The Bakken Oil Fields
By Jason Allie, Glostone Trucking Solutions
During my first couple of months of driving water trucks in the Bakken, I saw all manner of unsafe, and frankly, crazy, driving. The sight of over-turned trucks was a regular occurrence, roughnecks and roustabouts would pass each other on blind hills and turns to meet each other in on-coming traffic as they rushed to a job site, and commercial drivers would fall asleep at the wheel due to the fatigue of working beyond the Hours of Service limits. It did not take long to realize that if I wanted to make it as a truck driver in North Dakota – and stay alive – I would have to be 100% focused on safety and my level of awareness would need to be extraordinarily sharp.
Here are some examples of the negligence and lack of safety I saw during my time in the Bakken:
One night, at about 3:00 in the morning, I was woken by the ground-shaking thunder of a large explosion. I ran outside to see flames ascending the giant fir tree of my next door neighbor. There was a small motorhome parked in front of their house that was fully engulfed in flames. Kaboom! Another huge explosion sends the neighbors and me scurrying to a safe distance while waiting for the fire department. It was later determined by the fire marshal that the explosion was caused by a careless driver lighting a cigarette while sitting in his parked truck. The truck was carrying were six compressed oxygen bottles and a propane bottle – you can figure out the rest!
For the first company I worked for up there, I was given a crash course on water hauling and learned the remainder of how to operate this vehicle through a haphazard process of trial and error. The carrier filled their driver seats with anyone who had a pulse and a CDL and encouraged long hours without adequate rest between shifts.
Another example of this carrier’s negligence, beyond its poor driver qualification process, was when a new overnight driver destroyed a contamination barrier his first night on the job! He loaded his trailer with production water, drove off, and then failed to negotiate a tight corner to get out of the lot, destroying a contamination barrier with his trailer. To make matters worse, he didn’t even report the accident! This event was the straw that broke the camel’s back – the regulators came and put the carrier out of service, on account of this accident and many others within the previous year. Within only a few months of employment, myself and twelve other drivers were out of a job and the company lost millions in potential revenue due to lost contracts.
In September of 2012, a car failed to yield at Johnson’s Corner and a truck was going 65 mph along Hwy 23. The truck hit the car, killing the driver, and then went off the road and through a small private school injuring a teacher and some of the students. Thankfully, most of the students were on the other side of the building. This same water hauling company was involved in another accident, this time on Hwy 85 heading towards Watford City. The driver, placing his priority on reading a text message rather than watching the road, failed to stop his vehicle in time before rear-ending the oversize load in front of him.
A few moments of distraction cost him his life.
All of these accidents were preventable and all of them were due to driver negligence, ignorance, or an intended disregard for safety on the part of the carriers involved in these accidents. And despite the increasing amounts of money Bakken oil companies have invested into their safety programs over the past few years, I was surprised to find that the statistics show the number of large truck crashes in North Dakota continue to rise.
In 2009, 925 accidents in North Dakota involved heavy trucks or tractor-trailers, which accounted for about 3.3% of all accidents that year. These numbers have increased each year since and have doubled to 1,910 crashes per year or 6.6% of all recorded accidents (2014 North Dakota Crash Summary NDDOT). This data indicates to me that there spending money is not enough to change driver behavior and decrease the amount and severity of accidents, let alone save lives. Safety is not a token operation done just to satisfy regulators – it’s done to preserve families and lives.
I wanted to share these thoughts with you because Glostone Trucking Solutions want you to have a safe and successful 2016. I encourage you to take a moment to have a discussion about safe driving with your colleagues and consider whether you’re just throwing money at a problem and hoping for it to go away or are you taking the necessary steps to change driver behavior and attitudes. If your business has not put together a strategy and established processes for implementing and maintaining safety and compliance, consider reaching out to Glostone Trucking Solutions. Call us today at 503-607-1088.
Glostone Trucking Solutions can help ensure that you are hiring a safe and capable employee and ensure continued compliance in your business. We will:
- Help you to change driver behavior
- Educate your drivers and support staff on best practices in safety and compliance
- Automate and streamline your various FMCSA safety documentation procedures
- Properly screen and on-board your new commercial drivers and screen out potentially dangerous drivers
- Help you to prepare for an audit if you’re in one, respond to the results of an audit, and stay out of an audit