Tuesday, September 27, 2016

DOT official’s day in the cab an eye-opening experience

When it comes to working relationships, sometimes it feels as if truckers and their state’s department of transportation get along about as well as Felix and Oscar of “The Odd Couple” fame.

But OOIDA Life Member Tilden Curl said his recent experience offering a ride-along to a member of his home state’s DOT was anything but prickly. In fact, both men say it was an illuminating experience.
OOIDA Life Member Tilden Curl, left, and Jason Beloso, planning manager for the
Washington Department of Transportation’s rail freight and port division,
did a ride-along together earlier this summer.

Curl, of Olympia, Wash., took the opportunity to spend some quality time getting to know Jason Beloso, a planning manager for the state DOT’s department of rail, freight and ports division.

The two met at a public meeting this summer to discuss truck parking in North Bend, Wash. The focus of their day trip together initially started on truck parking, but broadened to include a variety of issues, such as lane restrictions and even navigating an 18-wheeler through a roundabout.

“It was quite an eye-opener for him,” Tilden said. “He was real appreciative at the end of the day that he had the opportunity.”

For his part, Jason said riding in the cab of a truck was something he’s “always wanted to do.”

“One of the big takeaways for me was putting a human element on this profession, and the pride that drivers take in their profession,” Jason said in a phone interview with Land Line. “Thanks to the ride-along, I now have a greater appreciation for the work that truckers do, the issues they face on a daily basis, and the key role they have in keeping our highways safe.”

The day trip started with Tilden picking Jason up outside of Seattle, delivering a load in Bellingham, picking up another load, and making the return trip.

Tilden says the pair has discussed doing it again because there are more questions they’d like to discuss.

“It was quite an education for him on the specific problems truck drivers face through the course of the day,” he said. “I think anybody that has the opportunity to work with their state officials and do a day trip with them should, even if it’s just a short ride. It exposes them to something that is unfamiliar to them, yet they still are involved in regulating or passing judgements or whatever to accommodate truck drivers. What you might think would be a good idea from a regulatory standpoint in practice is not. And it gives them the opportunity to see that difference.”

For Jason, the trip offered a chance to see firsthand the unique challenges truckers face on a daily basis.

“Sitting in that passenger seat of that truck, one of the things I was able to see is due to the narrow lane width, truck drivers have to pay closer attention to the other vehicles on the road. They really had to concentrate on keeping the truck in the middle of the lane,” he said. “Due to size, weight and lack of maneuverability of large vehicles, truck drivers really have to think a lot further ahead than we typically do when driving our vehicles to anticipate the hazards and react to situations.”

Tilden admits he learned a few things about how Jason and other folks in the state DOT do their jobs, too.

“The state is up against a lot of constraints; part of that is how to spend limited budget dollars,” he said. “I think sometimes we might not really give the states credit enough for trying to spend dollars as best they see. Because even though trucks are a large part of the transportation plan, they also have to be concerned about ships and rail transportation. There’s a lot of different entities vying for that resource, and the states have to figure out how they can best serve their public and what is the best way to allocate those dollars.”