MOUNDSVILLE - As the oil and gas industry continues to grow in Marshall County, so does the amount of truck traffic on narrow, dilapidated roads traveling to operation sites in some of the most rural parts of the county.
The combination of small country roads and heavy trucks sometimes driven by workers unfamiliar with the area has resulted in numerous instances of large vehicles running off the road, getting stuck or rolling over on narrow turns.
Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Cecil said accidents of this nature have been keeping his staff busy since the industry has boomed in the region. So far, not much has been done to prevent it either, he said.
A sign warns large trucks to stay off the road at the beginning of Fork Ridge Road in Moundsville.
"There are suggested routes for these trucks, but there is nothing preventing them from taking the smaller roads," Cecil said. "It's very frustrating. People look to us for answers, but we don't have the ability to limit trucks on the road."
Truck accidents that cause roads to shut down are not only a headache for drivers, but can also keep emergency personnel who drive ambulances or fire trucks from reaching a location quickly, as detours on the rural roads usually mean tacking on an extra 20-30 minutes of travel time.
A solution could be as simple as putting up a sign warning drivers which roads are dangerous for big trucks. Cecil said Fork Ridge Road was a hot spot for truck accidents until warning signs were recently installed advising drivers to avoid the hill. These warnings have almost eliminated truck problems in that area, he said.
Cecil hopes the West Virginia Division of Highways will invest in putting up more signs around the county to help combat truck problems.
"It goes to Charleston to make those kind of decisions," Cecil said. "I've written the DOH asking to look into it, to look into the conditions and come up with an alternate plan. Signage would go a long way."
However, Brent Walker, director of the West Virginia Department of Transportation, said the problem isn't necessarily limited to trucks working for the oil and gas industry.
"They could be contractors or trucks making deliveries that aren't associated with oil and gas," Walker said. "What we're finding is they are trucks with a job in Moundsville and have to go to Cameron or Fairmont and they are relying on GPS systems. It's not limited to oil and gas."
Walker said gas companies in the county work with coordinators from the DOT to create predetermined routes before making deliveries. He said trucks that get stuck on small roads are probably delivery trucks looking for shortcuts to make deliveries on time. They also might be using a GPS system designed for cars instead of specialized GPS systems for trucks that determine routes suitable for large vehicles.
"The responsibility is with the companies to follow those maintenance agreements and the predetermined routes," Walker said. "If it's one of (the oil and gas) trucks, they would not be very happy. I would say it might be contractors that aren't part of that or general deliveries that rely too heavily on maybe not the right GPS."
Walker said the state continues to monitor these accidents and will put up more warning signs if trucks keep getting stuck on certain roads.
"Whenever we get notice (of an incident,) crews go out and take a look," Walker said. "We certainly want to continue to provide safety in this regard by giving trucks a heads up. There is some accountability on their part as well."