In June 2010, Pennsylvania State Police placed 250 trucks hauling wastewater or supporting shale drilling operations out of service along with 45 drivers.
Three months later, in the next “Operation FracNET,” troopers removed 208 trucks and 64 drivers from Pennsylvania roads for everything from faulty brakes and lighting to permit violations.
In the most recent crackdown on shale industry trucks, a two-day period in March 2011, troopers pulled 131 vehicles and 14 drivers off the road.
Now gas drillers and truckers are trying to further reduce those numbers.
“All of a sudden overnight a lot of these communities are seeing thousands of trucks going back and forth to the shale production sites,” said David Holt, president of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA). “We understand that increased truck traffic comes with it increased risk.”
The Alliance, comprised of energy producers, the trucking industry and businesses, created a task force last year from among its members to develop a series of recommendations to improve road safety in heavily traveled drilling areas including the Marcellus region in Pennsylvania.
Holt said the idea is to get gas companies and drivers to reach out to drilling communities.
“Get with elected officials, and other community leaders and homeowners that are adjacent to these production sites to make sure they all understand the rules of the road, the safety procedures that are already in place,” Holt said. “If we see some driver acting irresponsibly, we can all better enforce that from all aspects of the equation.”
He said the task force’s recommendations are not a reaction to any law enforcement actions or complaints from citizens.
“I think this is being proactive,” Holt said. “Any time you see this amount of truck traffic happening this quickly you want to make sure you’re being as responsible as you possibly can.”
According to Holt, some drilling areas can see up to 1,000 trucks a day — on rural roads — and the recommendations account for that “making sure there’s good maintenance, making sure there’s good safety procedures in place, frankly reminding the community that if you see a driver acting irresponsibly, here’s the things you can do."
"But here’s the things you should take into consideration: don’t tailgate, don’t drive too closely to these trucks because they can’t see you,” he added.
Holt said the number one priority is to make sure the drivers are properly credentialed and have safe driving records.