Two Marshall County sheriff's deputies are working with the West Virginia Department of Transportation to patrol U.S. 250, W.Va. 88 and W.Va. 86 in search of oversized loads related to the coal, oil and natural gas industries.
"Basically, many oversized loads need permits from Charleston," said WVDOT Division of Highways acting District Manager Daniel Sikora.
Sikora said companies wanting to use West Virginia roads to transport oversized loads have to submit their permit applications to the DOH office Charleston to be approved.
According to Sikora, the primary concern of state officials is whether certain bridges can bear the weight of the oversized loads being hauled.
Sometimes state representatives will even go out to a bridge location to make sure that an oversized load can make it across before granting approval.
"We clear for weight, width and overhead," said Sikora. "We've got to check the clearances."
That does not mean that the DOH neglects the roads themselves, Sikora said. In fact, state officials work with the companies to bond roads. What that means is that companies pay to repair whatever damage they cause, and bonds cover any additional expenses.
The DOH will videotape roads as they are before companies use them to haul things, then keep track of changes as the companies use them. The bonds are enforced by law.
"But you can't catch everybody," said Sikora.
Often, he said, truckers will go off on their own and damage roads without any approval, and it is difficult for the DOH to track them because there are over a dozen freight companies in the area.
Sometimes officials are able to catch violators and penalize them if provided with solid evidence. For instance, Sikora mentioned how one man had submitted a video of a bulldozer with metal cleats driving directly on the road, tearing it up.
Another measure being taken to monitor the activity of oversized loads on area roads is the use of pilot cars.
"All overwidth, overweight and overheight vehicles need pilot cars," said Sikora.
Positioned in front of and behind oversized loads, pilot cars must have lights, flags and signs to warn the public that an oversized load is coming through.
Pilot cars also help the DOH to monitor oversized load activity by notifying them of movements and which direction oversized loads are going.
Pipeline companies do not have any bonding laws for the roads they travel, but Sikora said they are being cooperative.
"With drillers, we have pretty good control over what roads they use," Sikora said.
Marshall County Chief Deputy Kevin Cecil said he is glad to be working with the DOH to monitor oversized loads.
He said his two officers are working in the U.S. 250 and W.Va. 88 area in response to complaints from residents about problems caused by large vehicles and trucks.
"It's fortunate they're here for us because we can go more in-depth," said Cecil. "The DOT can look more in-depth at vehicles themselves and do things we can't do."
Cecil emphasized the particular area where the patrols are was not singled out for any special reason aside from its large population.
"It's no different than anywhere else in the county, but today we're there with the DOT," said Cecil.
Sikora manages West Virginia District 6, consisting of Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties.
"You can drive anywhere in the whole district, it's probably one of the busiest places in the state," Sikora said, and he attributes that largely to the oil and gas and mining industries.