State steps up enforcement on gas industry trucks

    Roads and bridges and Pennsylvania have taken a hit in the past year from increased truck traffic to and from natural gas drilling wells.

    Pennsylvania’s rural roads have endured considerable damage from the surge of truck traffic tied to natural gas drilling. The state is putting up more funds to crack down on unsafe haulers.

    More than 1000 miles of roadways have suffered from gas industry trucks hauling water, equipment or chemicals to and from drilling sites. Gas companies have stepped up to fix a portion of the roads, and the Department of Transportation is working to get them to take responsibility for all damages.

    The Department of Environmental Protection is also doubling funds for state police to enforce truck safety rules.

    Hanger: The work done in 2009 was very important and somewhat disturbing.

    That’s DEP Secretary John Hanger. He says up to 40 percent of drilling trucks were over weight, had bad brakes or other violations.

    Hanger: This industry across the board has to do a much better job of respecting Pennsylvania’s rules and regulations.

    Penn DOT spokesman Rick Mason says the road damage has cut into its budget. Mason: For example, the required reviews, roadway inspections, the permit processing, additional signing that we have to do for our posted and bonded roads, safety reviews and then monitoring have all increased Penn DOT’s operating costs, resulting in reduced funding for roadway and bridge maintenance activities.

    DOT has had to put weight limits on three bridges in north central Pennsylvania. And officials in Lycoming County are conducting thorough inspections of locally owned bridges that may not be able to support the new loads. A proposed severance tax on the gas industry could reduce the burden on state departments that have had to respond to the dramatic rise in drilling.

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