Sharing Roads With Rigs a Two-Way Street

Wheeling WV  Intelligencer
19 May 2011
By J.W. Johnson Jr., Staff Writer, The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

CAMERON - Over the past several months, motorists driving in areas where gas drilling is taking place have voiced frustration about sharing the road with oversized trucks.

However, coming face-to-face with other motorists can be just as frustrating for the drivers of those trucks. As a result, law enforcement and drilling company officials this week said both automobile motorists and truck drivers bear responsibility in keeping the roads safe.

According to Stacey Brodak, director of corporate development for Chesapeake Energy, drivers hired by that company either directly or as independent contractors are required to abide by a set of standards for sharing the road safely.

"For several years now, we have established and shared specific guidelines with our employees and vendors working in areas with narrow and winding roads," she said.

Brodak said those guidelines include traveling at slower speeds and being alert and courteous to oncoming traffic. In addition, any oversized load that is permitted to travel on roads despite their weight or dimensions must have escort vehicles both in front and behind them at all times to alert drivers.

"The flagger is there to alert drivers of the oncoming vehicle," said Marshall County Sheriff John Gruzinskas.

Gruzinskas said when a motorist is faced with an escort vehicle, they should immediately try to get over as much as possible to allow the oncoming truck to pass. He said it is also a good idea to slow down or even stop briefly until the truck passes, citing data that states accidents with vehicles traveling over 35 mph can result in serious injury or death.

Additionally, Gruzinskas said if a truck is following all of the rules stipulated on a permit and an accident would occur, the driver of the other vehicle could be held at fault.

"Even if the truck is in your lane, if the driver is following the permit, a determination of fault would need to be made," he said, adding that issue would most likely be decided by a judge.

Gruzinskas said it is often easy for residents who travel a particular road or area every day to become used to the road and become comfortable.

"Workers or drivers in certain areas who know the roads are just wanting to get to work or get home, and they maybe tend to drive a little faster," he said, adding drivers should always be aware of their surroundings and pay attention to posted signs and escort vehicles.