Local haulers hurt by crackdown

BY STACI WILSON

Economic development board member Adam Diaz provided the board with an insider’s view of doing business with natural gas companies.

He recently opened a rail transload facility in the Kingsley area that he says, PennDOT tried to get shut down.

“I’ve got $750,000 tied up in the operation,” said Diaz. He said the local division of the state agency is not familiar with the federal regulations that rail operates under.

According to Diaz, local PennDOT officials did not realize that haulers of interstate freight were exempt from road bonds. Diaz said he had to take his grievances to Washington, D.C., and Harrisburg in an effort to get the matter resolved.

At the Oct. 28 economic development board meeting, Diaz suggested the group focus its attention on similar issues local business owners and independent truck drivers around the county are now facing in the wake of natural gas development.

The transload facility is just one of four businesses Diaz owns that does business with the natural gas industry. In addition to the rail sites, Diaz owns a lumber mill, bluestone business and refuse removal company. He employs about 120 people.

Diaz also said problems exist with the state police’s crackdown on truck drivers in the area.

“There’s no set rules or guidelines to follow. It’s up to the discretion of each individual inspector,” Diaz said. One of his trucks, for instance, was stopped by three different inspectors in one day.

“There are a lot of people locally trying to keep money here,” Diaz said, “but it doesn’t pay to work.”

He said, “My trucks are brand new and they are being tied up for two to three hours when they’re stopped.

Several board members also discussed what they described as potential “profiling” and selective enforcement of regulations targeting the natural gas industry.

One board member said one of his company’s truck drivers was pulled over and asked if he was doing business with the gas companies. The driver was released, without an inspection, when he told him he wasn’t on gas-related business.

Board member Joe Andre said one of his trucks was held up for four hours on an inspection stop. “That doesn’t mean anything to the inspector but it does to that business,” Andre said.

Diaz said, “We just want to know the rules we need to operate under.”

In the past 45 days, Diaz told the board his company’s trucks have racked up 67 stops and violations.

“And I have good equipment,” he said. One inspector found mud flaps on a truck that were one inch short. Another inspector found one strap on a fire extinguisher unclipped but the strap was not undone, according to the business owner.

Board member Bill Owens suggested the board schedule a meeting with Rep. Sandra Major, R-Bridgewater Twp.

Board members also wanted to find out if enforcement has been targeted in Major’s legislative district.

Diaz said road bonding is another issue local bonders are dealing with.

He said he believes PenDOT wants him to put up a $5 million bond to cover potential road damage.

“That affects my balance sheet,” Diaz said.

He said he asked a local PennDOT official how the agency would figure out who was responsible for road damage and who would pay if, for example, four different companies carried a bond on the same road.

Diaz said the PennDOT employee told him the four could “Go have coffee and figure it out” or 25 percent would be taken from each company.

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