OOIDA member caught up in I-5 crisis

| 9/11/2001

Member Jeff Furney was southbound on Interstate 5 hauling an oversize load Sept. 6, when he was caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. According to Furney, he and 11 other rigs with oversized loads were stuck in traffic from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Thursday while a standoff between an alleged killer, Joaquin Gutierrez, and the California Highway Patrol took place in the middle of I-5 near Newman.

While troopers and a swat team tried to negotiate Gutierrez out of his car, authorities rerouted most of the north and southbound traffic, including semis, around the stand-off. The oversized loads were left to fend for themselves in a dirt lot near Patterson for more than 13 hours. Furney was hauling a three-axle gooseneck 50 ton RGN with a L120 front end loader on board. His temporary route permit was for I-5 only.

According to The Modesto Bee, California's Transportation Department (CalTrans) was routing other oversized loads with annual road permits and regular traffic detour around the stand off.

"CalTrans told us not to move because we would be off-route," said Furney. "We couldn't drop our loads, so we couldn't go to eat and we were afraid to sleep for fear we would miss the call to get back on the highway."

Ferman Barriga, manager of CalTrans' northern permits branch, told Land Line the truckers should have called their emergency number to get a verbal permit to move on another route around the incident. When told that the truckers did call, but were told they needed access to a fax to get a different permit, Barriga said there must have been a misunderstanding.

"CalTrans has a staffer on duty 24 hours for just this type of problem. I understand this was an unusual situation," he said, "most of the time, the highway is only closed for a short time." Barriga said he will personally bring up the subject of issuing verbal permits for emergency situations at the next department meeting.