Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Texas oil-and-gas boom puts more trucks on rural roads, and more rocks in air and through windshields

The surge in oil and gas drilling in South and West Texas over the past year has brought more money to the region. But heavy truck traffic is damaging roads, causing safety concerns, and has opened the doors for a suddenly prosperous business -- repairing broken windshields, Aman Batheja reports for The Texas Tribune. (Tribune photo by Eddie Seal: Eddie Posselt, right, and Danilo Estaco install a new windshield)

"Bringing a new gas or oil well into production typically requires more than 1,000 loaded trucks traveling to and from a well site," Batheja writes. As a result, more rocks and debris are kicked into the air, causing more window damage. Sarah Hidalgo-Cook, manager of the Southwest Area Regional Transit District, which oversees public transportation for eight rural counties in South Texas, told Batehja, “We’ve replaced more windshields in one year than we have in 10."

John McBeth, district president for the Brazos Transit District, a public transportation provider covering portions of East and Central Texas, said they were "buying windshields by the dozen because of a spike in incidents," Batheja writes. "The damage occurred most often when one of McBeth’s drivers was behind a truck that had just exited an oil field site. The truck would often have debris stuck to its exterior, and that debris would fly behind it as the vehicle  picked up speed." To help reduce damage, "McBeth said his drivers were recently instructed to change lanes and stay farther back when behind oil field trucks."

While finding cracks in a windshield can be annoying, the real concern is the safety and well-being of other drivers, an issue the Texas Oil & Gas Association says it dealing with, Batheja writes. A spokesperson told Batheja, "The firms drilling in the state’s shale fields emphasize the importance of safety to oil field truck drivers. Some firms use GPS technology to track their drivers and ensure that none are speeding or driving in an unsafe manner."

Still, local entrepreneurs like Eddie Posselt, who quit his job in the oil fields to repair windshields full-time, are cashing in. He told Betheja, “I walked the lots here and noticed that there are many broken windshields in the area. I saw a great opportunity to go into business replacing them. The force and also the size of the rocks in this area, they’re pretty big. Most of the time, the damage is not repairable." (Read more)

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