Drilling trucks fail more tests, state police say
More than 40 percent of roadside inspections conducted this year on trucks involved in the Marcellus shale gas-drilling industry revealed significant safety violations, far surpassing the trucking industry's rate as a whole, state police said Wednesday.
"In some cases, you're looking at a disaster waiting to happen," said Lt. Ray Cook, commander of the commercial vehicle safety division.
Kathryn Klaber, president of the Cecil-based Marcellus Shale Coalition, said, "The safety of our workers and the communities in which we operate remains our top priority, and we will continue to work each day to address these issues."
State police last week conducted a three-day roadside inspection campaign, focusing on tankers hauling wastewater from gas drilling sites and other commercial vehicles supporting Marcellus shale operations.
Police conducted more than 1,100 inspections that resulted in 208 trucks and 64 drivers being taken off the road and 959 citations. Police said 140 of the trucks were hauling wastewater created by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves shooting water into the rock formation to free the natural gas.
Playing on the industry term, police called their campaign "Operation FracNET." A similar crackdown in June resulted in 250 trucks and 45 drivers being taken off the road and 669 citations.
Of the vehicles taken out of service in the latest crackdown, 60 were from Allegheny, Fayette, Greene and Washington counties.
Common violations included trucks that exceeded weight limits or had leaking tankers, improperly adjusted brakes or unsecured equipment, Cook said.
When such problems are discovered, the lieutenant said, the trucks "don't move until the problem is corrected." Companies often must send mechanics to roadside sites to fix problems or dispatch another driver.
State police have been "actively tracking" Marcellus shale truckers since April, Cook said, but he denies they are "unnecessarily targeting" the industry. The industry deserves extra attention, he said.
Since April, he said, 41 percent of inspections on Marcellus shale trucks and truckers resulted in violations that took them off the road. The trucking industry average is 23 percent, he said.
Studies show one well can generate up to 1,300 round trips by truckers heading to and from the site while it's drilled for natural gas, Cook said.
"They are putting very high volumes onto very rural, narrow roadways," he said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.