Baltimore state of emergency poses risks for truckers

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 4/28/2015

A state of emergency in Baltimore, Md., highlighted by a curfew and the presence of the Maryland National Guard poses safety risks for truckers operating in and around the city, OOIDA officials said Tuesday.

Arson, looting and other acts of violence rocked the city on Monday, the day of the funeral for 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died last week of a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody. Gray’s death, the latest in a string of high-profile killings of black men and teenagers by law enforcement around the nation, sparked another round of protests and confrontations between civilians and police.

On Monday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan activated the National Guard and instituted a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. citywide. In addition, the Baltimore Department of Transportation posted a news release that motorists should “use caution” when traveling through the area, particularly in west Baltimore. Various road closures remain in effect in the city including:

Two lanes of eastbound Fayette Street between Gay and President Street – curb and travel lane
Baltimore Street between Gay Street and President Street closed to through traffic
Southbound President Street between Fayette Street and Baltimore Street – curb lane

The Maryland Department of Transportation has a road condition map available online, which can be accessed from its website, MDOT spokesman Chuck Brown says motorists in the area can also access traffic and road closure information by dialing 511.

Doug Morris, OOIDA security operations director and a former member of the Maryland State Police, said drivers delivering in the Baltimore area are likely to be impacted by the curfew. He recommends that drivers “try to stay out of Baltimore during evening hours.”

“Try to get daytime deliveries if at all possible,” he said. “If you have to park anywhere, park outside the Baltimore city area, either in Baltimore County or Anne Arundel County (to the south). It’s going to continue to be a mess for some time in Baltimore city.”

Besides physical safety hazards, working in an area under a state of emergency declaration could have serious financial consequences for drivers, as many insurance policies carry exemptions for operating the vehicle in such conditions.

When a state of emergency was declared in Ferguson, Mo., last November, OOIDA Truck Insurance Department Manager Deborah Winkler said that while individual policies may vary, most insurance plans will have “some kind of exclusion for riots or civil unrest.”

Those exclusions can be for loss or damage caused by strikers, locked-out workmen, persons taking part in labor disturbances, riots or civil commotions. Winkler said truckers are sometimes left with the difficult choice of doing a job that could put them in harm’s way, or declining to take a job altogether.

“I know how it works for a lot of carriers. You’ve got to do the job and get (the load) delivered to get paid,” she said. “But if at all possible, you should avoid such an area. And if you do have to go into an area like that, you should be aware that you’re basically self-insuring yourself at that point.”

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