Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ten reasons Story City, Iowa, needs a truck stop

Story City, Iowa, a town of 3,341, 12 miles north of Ames on Interstate 35, recently rejected a Love’s truck stop.

We think Story City should reconsider. Here are 10 reasons why:

1. Story City was settled by Norwegian farmers looking for cheap real estate. They found it here at $1.25 an acre in 1850. A truck stop could only increase property values.

2. Story City was named for Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845) who was born in Massachusetts, taught at Harvard, and served in Washington, D.C. He never set foot in Iowa (never mind Story City) because there was no Iowa. But Justice Story was noted for his strong support of private property rights. He would never have forbidden a truck stop. They should build one now for Justice Joe.

3. There are more women than men in Story City, 100 women to every 76-and-a-half men, according to the census. Since 94 percent of all truck drivers are men, Story City could really use a truck stop.

4. Professional baseball player Hank Severeid from Story City once played for the Yankees. That was in 1926. Hank ends the list of famous people from Story City. In fact, he is the entire list. A truck stop would inspire Story City’s youth, like the rails inspired earlier generations.

5. In the 2012 novel “Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland” a small town populated by werewolves is named Story City. This is not good PR. Since trucking is certified 100 percent werewolf free, a truck stop could only help.

6. Story City is home to a citizen who claimed a cop once told him “500 at-large serial killers travel I-35 each day.” In a letter to the Story City Herald, the citizen opposed Love’s because he didn’t want to give predators a reason to stop “and abduct our innocent children.” Clearly, Story City needs a truck stop as a link to the real world.

7. In May of this year, according to the Story City Herald, Story City police had to contend with an apartment burglary, a stolen purse, a theft of catalytic converters from a repair shop, two slashed tires, five disturbances of the peace, four disorderly conduct calls, seven false alarms, seven domestic quarrels, two trespassers, 20 suspicious vehicles and 30 suspicious persons. The town is obviously out of control. How could a truck stop make things any worse?

8. Story City has a very low crime rate, according to government statistics, but that may all depend on how you define crime. According to RealtyTrac, Story City has a foreclosure rate double that of Iowa. Yet the town is home to five banks – a bank for every 660 people that live there. A truck stop would have no impact on this terrible statistic, but Story City should have one anyway.

9. Some residents opposed Love’s because they claimed it would cause traffic jams. Traffic jams? Twelve miles north of Ames and 30 miles east, south and west of nowhere else? What’s a traffic jam in Story City? A truck in front of you? I invoke the reality link once again. Story City needs a truck stop.

10. Truckers need a place in Story City to eat, refuel, and sleep. Story City needs the 50 permanent jobs. They should do the right thing and let Love’s build a truck stop. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Washington state plays blame game in bridge collapse

Federal investigators spread out the blame for the May 2013 bridge collapse on Interstate 5 in Washington state. Unfortunately, the Washington State Patrol puts the blame squarely on the truck driver and has charged him with negligent driving in the second degree.

The collapse of a portion of the Skagit River Bridge was investigated from every conceivable angle and we know much about what happened.

We know that truck driver William Scott of Alberta, Canada, was southbound on I-5 and in the right lane, hauling a permitted over-height load on a step-deck trailer. We know he had a pilot car up ahead, and we know that being in the right lane was not the place to be because the oversized load could not safely pass beneath the arched overhead bridge supports.

We know that a section of the bridge collapsed and that two vehicles plunged into the river. Fortunately nobody was seriously injured.

Scott told investigators he wanted to – and tried to – move into the left lane, but his truck was being overtaken and passed by another truck as the vehicles approached the bridge. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that in its final report, but the second truck driver has never come forward and has never been identified.

The NTSB concluded in its final report that the overhead bridge supports had likely been weakened over the years by numerous – or even countless – strikes by over-dimensional vehicles.

These are all factors, yet the Washington State Patrol’s Major Accident Investigation Team – known as MAIT – claims in its “final report” that Scott was negligent in causing the bridge collapse.

“The MAIT determined the proximate cause of this collision sequence was directly attributable to William Scott’s negligence,” the State Patrol wrote. “It was Scott’s responsibility to know that the height of his load would clear structures such as the Skagit River Bridge along his permitted route.”

The State Patrol says Scott’s load was 2 inches higher than listed on the route permit, and that he needed to know “well in advance” what position he would need on the bridge to ensure clearance.

According to CSA, the company that Scott worked for and continues to work for, Mullen Trucking, has a good safety record.

Sure, in an ideal world, Scott would have moved over. Ramifications from this collision and collapse are ongoing.

The NTSB has recommended to the state of Washington that permitted loads be escorted by two pilot cars instead of one. NTSB recommends a ban on all cellphone use by pilot car drivers because the lone pilot car driver in this incident was on a business call using a hands-free cellphone device at the time of the collision. NTSB has asked for CDL holders to obtain an endorsement to haul oversized loads, and further, the agency is asking for improved signage and GPS data for bridge dimensions nationwide.

Would any of these lofty recommendations have made a difference in this case? Who is to say? One thing is for sure, the Washington State Patrol doesn’t seem to be interested in it. They’re only interested in pursuing charges against the truck driver. The patrol says the driver of an oversized load is responsible for safely navigating his route.

Scott is to appear in court next year on the negligent-driving charge.