Plan a Safe Trip in the Eagle Ford Shale Play of South Texas

Tanker Truck on the Highway

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In mid-October, 2012, the Hawaiian Star Advertiser had a report about how a dump truck towing a trailer loaded with a forklift smashed through a pedestrian bridge, closing westbound lanes for about four hours. The crash caused a multi-ton section of the bridge to fall to the ground. Fortunately no one was injured but the repair bill was estimated to be between $200,000 and $300,000. The state’s Department of Transportation planned to ask the truck’s owner to pay for the repairs.

According to the report, the bridge had a clearance of 15 feet, 6 inches and the clearance was posted on a sign. A state DOT spokeswoman said that the trucking company did not have an overload permit.

The online newspaper of the Lower Hudson Valley in New York reported a similar mid-October accident: traveling in the southbound lane of the New York State Thruway, a flatbed truck carrying a dump truck hit an overpass, resulting in a three-vehicle accident. The dump truck’s spread came loose and ended up in the right lane.

It doesn’t take a lot of searching to find reports of accidents, including those with fatalities, caused when commercial trucks strike overpasses. Without proper planning, such accidents can easily occur traveling to and from the oilfields in the Eagle Ford Shale Play where many farm-to-market and county roads pass under state highways.

Plan Your Route in South Texas

Obtaining permits and planning routes that won’t present clearance issues are a driver’s responsibility. Both are part of trip planning. Getting your load to its destination safely and efficiently is the name of the game.

Freight comes in all shapes and sizes and in some cases could be a nightmare for drivers’ trip planning. Loads hauled to service the oilfield are frequently oversized, overweight or both.

Oversize loads that require special permits are difficult to maneuver especially in large cities and areas that have poor infrastructure. Roads in the oilfield take a beating and that presents a challenge for the driver.

Many accidents happen because of the failure to plan the trip accordingly to avoid low bridges, major dips in roadway and poor signage. It does sometimes happen that the posted clearance is not accurate, because the road has been repaved or due to some other factor. To make allowances for that, assume that there can be as much as a six- to nine-inch difference between the posted and the actual clearance.

Trucker maps and other trip planning aids are usually quite reliable. However the roads in the oilfield take a lot of abuse and their condition changes faster than trip planning aids can keep up with. Check with the Department of Transportation if you have any concerns about the roads that you want to take. The smart trucker avoids unnecessary driving challenges and plans to avoid roads that are likely to be rough from so much use.

As a professional driver, you should be completely familiar with your equipment and the space required in which to maneuver safely.

Heavy Load Trip Planning Tips

Here are some helpful tips when trip planning:

  1. Map out the most efficient route to your destination.
  2. Get familiar with the type of load you will be transporting. Will you need to take alternate routes because of hazardous materials? Is your load oversized and will it need additional space to maneuver?
  3. Check with local, state and federal guidelines to see if  if permits are required.
  4. Do a thorough Vehicle Inspection to make sure your vehicle and cargo will be safe.
  5. Always be well rested and focused before every trip to ensure you get to your destination safely.

Plan to Be Safe

Professional commercial motor vehicle drivers are charged with keeping our roadways safe. Safety for you and those who share the road with you is the number one priority from the start of the trip to the journey home. Before every trip it is ultimately your responsibility to make plans to travel safely.

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Devorah Fox, President - Mike Byrnes and Associates, Inc Authors of BUMPERTOBUMPER®, The Complete Guide to Tractor-Trailer Operations and the Easy CDL iPhone apps, Mike Byrnes and Associates, Inc. has helped launch successful commercial motor vehicle operator careers since 1987.

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