External Affairs Coordinator, Cabot Oil & Gas
[Editor Comment: Trucking safety is at the heart of natural gas development activities as drivers are trained and equipped with the specific goal of reducing impacts.]
June is National Safety Month, and one of the focuses of the National Safety Council for this year’s observance is Driving Safety. More employers each year are implementing safe driving policies with the goal to maintain and reduce collisions. For the natural gas industry, trucking safety is just as important as any other part of operations.
An increase on roadways of trucks and other heavy equipment associated with the natural gas industry raised concerns about additional vehicle accidents when exploration in the Marcellus shale began a decade ago. But, according to statistics released by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), trucks have an overall crash rate 29 percent lower than other vehicles, and large trucks are almost three times more likely to be struck in the rear in two-vehicle fatal crashes.
While the number of fatal truck crashes has declined dramatically since 1980, companies that support the gas industry with heavy equipment are continuously improving trucking safety through a combination of technology and training sessions with employees and managers. Sugar Hollow Water Services in Tunkhannock, PA began installing GPS units on all vehicles about five years ago.
“That’s a great tool to make sure that our drivers are being safe,” said Bill Hampton, General Manager at Sugar Hollow. He explains that a client asked that the devices be installed. “We quickly realized how useful they are. They track all movement and send us a notification if they go above 60 mph.”
Hampton maintains that safety is a combination of many elements, from scheduled maintenance of trucks and pre-trip inspections to rigorous background checks of applicants. “We give them a road test prior to them filling out and application,” he explained. “Better drivers are safer drivers.”
Dale Fisher, an instructor at the new CDL training center at the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center related that these components are integral to the curriculum. “One of the things making sure the truck itself is in good condition and that everything is in working order,” he offered. “The simplest way to be safe is to be aware of your surroundings. That includes weather and other people on the road.”