Keeping Area Highways Safe

Fortunately, no one was hurt seriously when a truck carrying fluid used in gas well drilling careened off W.Va. 88 and over a hill in Ohio County on Saturday afternoon. Though some of the tanker’s contents spilled into a creek, the waste was not considered hazardous and appears to have done little damage.

But this was not the first accident involving gas drilling equipment in our area during the past couple of years. Others have been more serious, with injuries and at least one death.

A substantial amount of the traffic on rural roads in the Northern Panhandle consists of large gas industry trucks. As we have pointed out, companies involved in the drilling boom have taken steps to keep both their own personnel and the public safe. Pilot vehicles and traffic directors are used. In some cases, gas trucks are kept off rural roads when school buses are on them.

These are laudable measures – but they may not be enough.

In general, the industry’s traffic safety record seems to be good. As a man living near where the truck crashed Saturday noted, accidents are not uncommon at the site, but this was the first one, to his knowledge, involving a truck from a well site.

But every accident involving a gas well or pipeline truck sullies the industry’s reputation for safety and makes local residents more apprehensive about traveling area roads.Companies engaged in moving heavy equipment and/or materials for drilling or pipeline construction should, on their own initiative, do more to ensure their trucks are safe for local roads. If they fail to do so, law enforcement agencies and state oil and gas drilling regulators should come down hard on them. Stiff fines and, perhaps, other sanctions should be levied against companies that do not ensure their equipment is as near to fail-safe as possible.