Trash and hydraulic fracturing fluid haulers have been put on notice by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the State Police that they will increase their enforcement of truck safety laws. DEP Secretary John Hanger says, “I wish I was exaggerating when I says that there are roads that are being destroyed and that have been literally turned into mud and made impassable for all motorists including emergency responders.” The DEP will up its funding of unannounced roadside inspections, commonly known as FracNet and TrashNet from the current $300,000 to $550,000. In the first half of 2010, roadside inspections by the state police and DEP found that more than 40 percent of the large trucks serving the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry were operating in violation of state motor carrier safety regulations. Nationally, since 2006, the trucking industry averaged only a 23-30 percent out-of-service violation rate. In June, a three-day enforcement effort involving DEP, state police, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration focused on trucks hauling waste water from Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations and resulted in 250 commercial vehicles being placed out of service for various vehicle safety deficiencies. Hanger says the message is not getting out that this must stop. He says the penalty now is a fine and having a truck taken out of service but he says it is incumbent upon the drillers hiring the trucking companies to not hire firms with poor safety records.
The additional $250,000 will come from the Waste Transportation Safety Account, which is supported by fees, fines and penalties paid by the waste-hauling industry. “It is important to point out that money is not coming from the general fund,” says Hanger. However, Hanger is quick to opine that it is a shame that any money should have to be spent on special enforcement to encourage hauling companies to obey the law.
The DEP says the vehicles are checked for weight and leakage, the presence of working fire extinguishers and to verify that loads are properly enclosed and secured. State police teams check vehicle braking systems, exterior lighting and other equipment that play a role in operational safety. They also check drivers for appropriate operator licenses.