Driving safely in the Bakken

Photographic credit: Marc Marriott.

Photographic credit: Marc Marriott.

MINOT, N.D. – Hess has a clear and simple safety mandate: Everyone, everywhere, every day… home safe. That’s why the company has taken an active role in addressing traffic safety, a continuing challenge from the oil boom in the North Dakota Bakken.

“Our objectives are to minimize the impacts of traffic and simultaneously increase road safety,” says Steve McNally, general manager for Hess in North Dakota.

As oil and gas production in North Dakota has soared, so too has the number of cars and trucks on the roads. Traffic is a byproduct of rapid growth in oil and gas production.

In the past few years, as the economic benefits of oil production have helped revitalize the state’s economy and reduce unemployment to the lowest level in the nation, Hess has been working on multiple initiatives to reduce serious traffic incidents and road fatalities. “While there is more work to be done, we are getting a much better handle on the traffic situation,” McNally states.

9-1The company is taking a multi-pronged approach to minimize truck traffic, improve safety and upgrade existing infrastructure. “More people are driving to work in the morning and more trucks are transporting the water, natural gas liquids and oil fuelling the shale energy boom. We know that increased traffic has an impact on entire communities, so we’re working closely with state and local officials to support increased funding for traffic improvements that benefit everyone in the area,” McNally says.

In the 2013 State of the State Address1 earlier this year, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple announced the state will increase spending for state highways, county road systems, township roads, bridges, interchanges and other infrastructure improvements by more than $1 billion in the next two years, boosting the state Department of Transportation’s total budget to $2.7 billion. “The level of activity in our state demands that we keep up with these long-term investments,” Dalrymple stated.

Hess has helped to reduce road congestion by sponsoring commuter car-pool programs and working quickly to build and find alternative methods of transportation to reduce the number of trucks on local roads.

The company transports more of its oil and gas through a network of new pipelines it has constructed throughout North Dakota. The goal is to increase the use of pipelines as well as unit trains from the company’s $50-million Tioga Rail Terminal to reduce reliance on trucking as the primary means of transporting produced oil and gas.

“We also require Hess drivers—employees and direct contractors—to complete rigorous proactive driver training classes,” McNally adds. All drivers are required to attend six hours of classroom instruction and take a one-hour follow-up driving assessment with the instructor.

Amber Gifford, journey management coordinator for Hess in North Dakota, has a background in law enforcement. So she tends to see rules of the road as non-negotiable. Speeding, for example, is not acceptable—”even when overtaking another vehicle” and “even for a few seconds.”

Those are some of the messages Gifford says she expects her students to take away from the proactive driver training.

To make sure everyone uses the skills they learn during the proactive driver training, all Hess vehicles are fitted with GPS technology that allows the company to monitor speed as well as rates of acceleration and braking. That way, if the company finds a driver acting unsafely or doing anything that poses a risk to local communities, it can—and does—take immediate action, McNally explains.

Hess also reviews the safety programs and safety records of their suppliers to ensure that it does business with companies that meet its expectations and share its commitment to safety. “Creating a safe work environment for our people and for the communities in which we operate is the most important thing the company can do,” McNally concludes.

Footnote:

1 http://governor.nd.gov/events/2013-state-state-address

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