While many have been asked to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus, long-haul truckers and other CDL drivers have been keeping America moving. Many truck companies participate in the energy sector and have been vital to the continued operations of gas companies operating in the Marcellus shale.
Matthew Austin is the president and CEO of a conglomerate of trucking companies that include Holcombe Energy Resource LLC, Eastern Freight Systems LLC and OBX Property Management LLC. In addition to moving food, paper products, and oilfield and medical grade stainless steel, the companies provide transportation services of fresh and waste water, maintenance services and material transportation, water and winch trucks, roll-off and flatbeds to the gas fields.
“We also provide the industry’s only equipment cleaning facility that allows the natural gas companies to ensure environmentally clean equipment is being used on every job,” Austin explained. Their operations extend from northeast Pennsylvania to Texas with 23 trucks on the road at any given time.
No industry has been untouched by COVID-19, but 85 percent of trucking operations are considered “life-sustaining” by Pennsylvania’s current standards. “We have been fortunate to keep our associates working, albeit some modified workloads,” Austin explained.
Like most businesses that have sent home those employees who are able to do their jobs remotely, the companies overseen by Austin have installed barriers at customer locations, offices and remote sites to assist with physical distancing guidelines.
In better times, Austin is proud of the fact that his drivers participate in the transportation of the Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit (MOLU) from state to state and school to school. A number of companies operating in the Marcellus shale have invested in the interactive displays geared to engaging middle school-age students in STEM studies and get them interested in oil and gas jobs.
Austin’s workers consider themselves lucky in light of so many Americans being out of work. While the health crisis is affecting their lives in other ways, he added, morale among employees remains high. “To an extent, those in life-sustaining roles hold pride in their contribution to keeping America moving,” Austin remarked.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has adjusted or relaxed some hours-of-service guidelines for truck companies, he noted. “But we do not partake in those exceptions, as we are not interested in taking risks to the safety and health of our associates or in our duty to keep our neighbors safe,” Austin maintained.