Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cool video shows crews sliding new I-5 bridge into place

Take a minute today and watch a cool piece of video of crews sliding the brand-new Skagit River Bridge into place on Interstate 5 in Washington state. The permanent span replaces a temporary span that had been in place since June following the collapse of a bridge section in May.

The Washington State Department of Transportation links to the video in an informative press release about the project and the retrofit, noting that crews needed to close the highway for only 19 hours to swap out the temporary span with the new span. You can see this incredible feat of engineering unfold in about a minute-and-a-half.

The permanent structure opened to traffic at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15, less than six months after a truck hauling an oversized load over the bridge struck overhead bridge supports. The strike caused damage to the supports and sent a 160-foot section of the bridge and two passenger vehicles behind the truck into the Skagit River below. Thankfully, there were no fatalities.

Investigators have released preliminary reports containing testimony from the drivers of most of the vehicles involved, including the trucker who was hauling the oversized load. But the be-all, end-all final report is still pending.

The trucker, a Canadian driver working for a company out of Alberta, told investigators that another tractor-trailer had attempted to overtake or pass his truck as the vehicles arrived at the bridge. That crowded the oversized hauler to the right, where the overhead bridge supports were lower than in the middle of the bridge.

The truck had enough clearance to navigate down the middle of the arched supports, but did not have the clearance at the right-hand shoulder.

We’ve heard from some truckers, some of whom haul oversized loads, and they openly question the role of the pilot car in this case and whether everyone was following protocol. Simply put, this incident should not have happened. Those are questions for the investigators, the folks who provided the permits, the trucker and the pilot car driver. Investigators have never identified or been able to find this so-called “second truck.”

Anyhow, back to the coolness of the bridge video and the project. It provides a glimpse into the future of bridge construction and replacement. And trust me, Congress and policymakers are paying attention.

There’s been a lot of talk about speeding up project delivery and reducing red tape for transportation projects. Congress mandated this be done in the current highway bill.

The I-5 bridge in Washington state is a prime example of how to do it without the need for a yearlong detour or restriction. It’s too bad it takes a bridge collapse for everyone to pull together on this.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Is there a trucker strike in the works?

The short answer is there is an effort to get truckers to shut down on Oct. 11-13. It is not, however, centered on issues in the trucking industry.

The effort, which is being promoted on Facebook, is calling on truckers to not haul freight for the three days. Many of the truckers who have “liked” the page seem to genuinely believe that issues such as hours of service, detention time, coercion, congestion, driver pay, etc., are the issues at hand.

However, that is not the case.

The agenda of the strike is as follows: “Which is remove Obama from office for crimes of treason and misdemeanors. We want Congressional hearing on Benghazi and Seal Team 6. Louis Learner put in jail. No amnesty, remove all Muslims in our government that do not uphold the Constitution. Remove Eric Holder from office for crimes against the people and the Constitution. Last but not least is Fuel prices.”

I can’t resist pointing out that’s exactly how it appears, and we’re pretty sure it should be Lois Lerner of the IRS and not “Louis Learner.” Not sure who that dude is. I’ll forgive the rest of the typos, etc.

Back on topic – as you can see only one of the issues has any direct connection to trucking.

That leads one to wonder who is really behind the effort.

The organizer(s) of the effort remained unnamed for the first several days of promoting the shutdown. However one (maybe the only?) organizer, Zeeda Andrews aka Zeeda Hutton, revealed herself as a country music singer who once promoted Mack and Petro Truck Stops, her only connection to trucking.

The effort picked up steam when it was discussed by Glenn Beck on his show. Raising a lot of concern in the non-trucking community about what was going on.

That too is not necessarily clear. At first the group only called for a three-day shutdown and blackout on purchases and banking. It has since morphed into a convoy or demonstration in Washington, D.C. But the details of when and where are sketchy. No idea if permits have been applied for or if the group even understands the logistical nightmare of getting a tractor-trailer combination into the Washington, D.C., area. Much less near the Capitol or White House.

It’s troublesome to see something like this put squarely on the shoulders of truckers, when the issues they are advocating for are not centric to trucking. It’s entirely possible that some could see this sort of agenda and demonstration as a negative for the trucking industry.

Any group has its right of assembly. So I’m not saying this group is any different. Just make sure that you’re not jumping in on the shutdown/strike/convoy/demonstration without knowing what the agenda is and if it fits with your ideals and morals.

Editor's note: On Monday, Sept. 23, Facebook administrators removed the page. One of the individuals who reported the page for the racist content received confirmation of the deletion and the following explanation was posted to the Facebook support dashboard.
This page was removed
Details We reviewed the page you reported for containing hate speech or symbols. Since it violated our Community Standards, we removed it. Thanks for your report. We let Truckers To Shut Down America know that their page has been removed, but not who reported it. Facebook never discloses who submits a report.
There are other Facebook pages and now a website, promoting the event, which is still centered on the original agenda detailed in the original blog post.