While the activity of the natural gas industry has slowed recently compared to the activity northeastern Pennsylvania experienced several years, permits for oversize load trucks remain high, showing that the industry is still relatively active.

According to a prior story in the Northeast Driller, District 3-0, which includes Bradford, Tioga, Sullivan and Lycoming counties, would average 25,000 issued oversize load permits per year prior to the natural gas industry. According to data provided by PennDOT, more than 44,000 oversize load permits were issued in 2012 to Bradford County, alone.

However, PennDOT Information Specialist Jamie Legenos noted that the permits issued were counted on a per-county basis, meaning that one oversize load traveling through more than one county counted as one oversize load in each county.

"If a permit requested travel in multiple counties it will be counted in each county," she said. "For example, if one permit holder traveled in three counties it would be counted in each of the individual counties."

Among the counties of Bradford, Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Luzerne, Sullivan, Tioga and Wyoming, Luzerne County led in oversize load permits in 2012 with more than 56,000 permits issued. Lycoming County was a close second with almost 54,000 permits issued. Following Bradford County at 44,000 was Susquehanna County with more than 43,000 permits issued, Lackawanna County with nearly 42,000 issued permits, Tioga County with more than 34,500 issued permits, Wyoming County with more than 17,500 permits issued and finally Sullivan County, which issued more than 12,000 permits.

Generally, the top kind of issued permit for each county was the General Load Combination. Other popular oversize permits issued included those for excavators, dozers, mobile homes and housing units, and miscellaneous towed vehicles.

A number of factors go into the permitting process of an oversize load, including what is being transported, what kind of vehicle is transporting the load, the route that the load plans to take, the date the load will be moved and a traffic control plan if the load could affect traffic. Additionally, a road posing a potential risk must be examined prior to the move.

"When the department anticipates a vulnerable or weak roadway may be used for industry traffic that uses heavy trucks, an engineering study is performed to determine if a weight restriction needs to be posted," Legenos said. "If a company wishes to use heavy trucks or equipment on the posted road they must enter into a maintenance agreement and bond the road. Every company using a posted road must share the cost of damage repairs."

The specifications of an oversize load rely on a number of factors, including height, width, length and weight, all of which vary depending on how many axles the transporter vehicle has, and limits on oversize load permits can depend on a specific roadway in the application.

However, no matter how large the trucks may be, PennDOT encourages caution and safety when drivers encounter these oversize loads.

"Although there are not formal guidelines regarding motorist safety and oversized loads, PennDOT urges motorists to utilize the safety advice that pertains to farm vehicle equipment. Motorists should be patient, yield to wide vehicles and pass with caution," Legenos said.

This story also appears in the latest Northeast Driller, which is available today. To read select stories from the Northeast Driller, visit www.northeastdriller.com.