May 21st, 2014
Trucking Incidents Show the Need for Proper Training, Proper Rest, and Plenty of Insurance
Last month, a truck carrying a large load crashed into the I-70 overpass
bending one of the major support beams at the Dallas Pike exit. The same day a runaway dump truck
crashed into a garage after destroying several residential fences in Moundsville. Last Saturday, one of Moundsville City Councilmen, Phil Remke, had to use his car to physically obstruct
a truck from taking an unauthorized route through Moundsville.
Damage to property, danger to people, and wear and tear on our roadways are all becoming increasingly frequent problems throughout the Ohio Valley. Whether it's through handling large construction equipment, as was the case in Dallas Pike and in Moundsville, or all of the associated "ordinary" truck traffic related to oil and gas drilling, the infrastructure in this area is taking a beating. The number, weight and trip frequency for trucks in the area is way up, and in some cases it's beyond what the roads can take. That can be good news for business and a good sign for the economy, but it can also mean serious problems if trucking outfits are not running right and taking the appropriate time and the appropriate rest to maintain a margin of safety for the people who live here. Many people are already being hurt when their lanes become impassable, riven with potholes and broken shoulders or choked with traffic they aren't designed for.
Government regulations impose restrictions on the number of hours over-the-road truck drivers may spend in certain defined periods of time on our highways. It's worth considering whether similar limitations need to be considered for driving that may be more local in nature, but nonetheless goes on all day (and sometimes all night). When you see a disaster like the one in Dallas Pike, you really have to wonder if the driver was up to his task at the time he decided to proceed under that low underpass with way too tall a load.
Regulated maintenance checks are also essential when dealing with large trucks. According to the driver in the runaway truck incident in Marshall County, the brakes simply "failed" without warning, leaving him streaking down the road into yards and ultimately into someone's garage. When a "get the job done" attitude
overrides the need to make sure that equipment is properly tested and road worthy before it leaves the garage, tragedies much more serious than the property destruction last week can occur. Our firm has seen its share of wrongful deaths caused by poor or even non-existent truck maintenance and we'd just as soon never see another one if companies would clean up their acts.
In addition, it's important that all trucking outfits be properly insured. Early reports suggest that the repair of the Dallas Pike overpass will be a multi-million dollar repair with a difficult-to-calculate impact on commerce locally and regionally for the closing of highway lanes for a long period of time. The potential for loss of life from runaway trucks and overloaded trucks on the roads is also quite serious and substantial, and carriers need to be fully insured to allow some measure of protection and compensation for the public when incidents do occur. The US Congress is currently considering a bill
to increase the insurance limits carried by large trucks that have been the same since the 1980s. It can certainly be hoped that the Congress will strongly consider passing that legislation for the protection of not only Ohio Valley residents, but also those nationwide.