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Eagle Ford: Driving safety top priority for oil, gas industry
By Deb Hastings and Omar Garcia
From Cuero to Carrizo Springs, advances in technology have led to an unprecedented leap in oil and natural gas production in South Texas. Oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford has generated more than $61 billion in revenue and 116,000 full-time jobs, according to research from the University of Texas at San Antonio. In Karnes County, employment in the mining sector (which is mostly oil and gas) jumped 260 percent and industry wages increased 320 percent. In Dimmitt County, local sales-tax revenues recently doubled, apparently thanks to increased oil and gas activity; this is a quadruple-digit increase over two years before.
Without a doubt, increased oil and gas production is turning once-sleepy towns into bustling centers for commerce of all kinds. With this increase in commerce comes an increase in road traffic. While the Legislature is wisely considering ways to fund improvements and repairs for roads in South Texas and beyond, oil and gas companies across the board have taken meaningful and proactive steps to encourage safety behind the wheel. Just as the oil and gas industry takes seriously its responsibility to maintain safe operations and job sites, the industry is committed to promoting safe driving.
Focus on driving safety isn’t a one-time occurrence. Oil and gas companies provide comprehensive and ongoing training for fleet drivers that incorporate both classroom instruction and practical hands-on training. Instructional programs are often followed by exams to certify that employees and contractors have met necessary standards. Some companies also conduct refresher driver training courses throughout the year and hold weekly safety meetings where they may discuss considerations for driving at night or in hazardous weather. Still others have instituted formal company-wide policies that prohibit cell phone use or texting while driving.
In addition to these courses and company policies, many Texas oil and gas operators utilize the cutting-edge technology to collect and process driver safety data from vehicles including speeding, swerving, and hard brake incidents. And, as an added precaution, many also equip fleets with backup cameras, stability controls, anti-lock braking systems, trailer sway control, and hands-free devices.
Beyond training and equipment, some companies have developed innovative incentive-based programs to help encourage safe driving practices that may include bonuses, raises, or prizes. The point of all of these programs is to establish, maintain, and reinforce a focus on road safety for all oil and gas drivers.
Recognizing that keeping the roads safe must be a collaborative effort, the oil and natural gas industry worked closely with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to help develop and spread the word about TxDOT’s Be Safe. Drive Smart. campaign. The public education initiative presents common-sense but critical reminders to drivers to always drive at safe speeds; wear seatbelts; pass other vehicles carefully; always stop at red lights and stop signs; and avoid distractions such as texting or cell phone use while driving.
The Texas Oil & Gas Association is also a proud partner in Safe Hand Texas, a public safety initiative from Texas Mutual Insurance, which provides educational resources and safety reminders for commercial drivers. Both programs are helping raise awareness about ways we can increase safety on our roads by pulling together public and private entities in a positive and collaborative manner.
When it comes to road safety, every driver on Texas highways and byways has a role to play.
As oil and gas opportunities draw people into communities across South Texas, there is no doubt the additional activity will mean an increase in cars and trucks on the road. But we must remember that with this increased economic good fortune comes increased responsibility -- something we all share. The Texas oil and gas industry is committed to powering the state forward, working with statewide and community partners, and keeping safety as our collective priority No. 1.
Hastings is with the Texas Oil & Gas Association, and Garcia leads the South Texas Energy & Economic Roundtable.
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