California truck-routing headaches solved?

| 2/12/2003

A long Senate hearing Feb. 6 offered some serious cussin’ and discussion of California’s plans to fix an ailing truck permit system. At the end, truckers, regulators and lawmakers agreed to proceed as a team to fix problems.

Safely moving oversized and overweight loads down California’s highways is the solemn responsibility of the California Department of Transportation’s permit division. The division assigns more than 180,000 routes a year to truckers.

In 1999, a Caltrans permit writer erred, sending an oversized load under an Anaheim bridge three inches too low for the truck’s load. This was actually one of 14 such incidents in 1999, but this one was a fatality. An audit in 2000 determined the trucks were misdirected because the permit office was understaffed. Problems set state regulators and lawmakers looking for safety reforms and a plan to build an expensive computer system to automate permits.

According to The Orange County Register, the implementation of these safety reforms were recently threatened. Caltrans was considering killing plans to continue spending money on this automated truck-routing system. Representatives from the California Trucking Association say they have never been consulted about the development of the automated system they are supposed to use. In addition, the state’s finance officials were moving forward with significant staff reductions in the truck permit division.

The situation prompted Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana) to take action.

According to published reports, Dunn said if Caltrans received the system and laid off workers, it might not rectify the problem the system was aiming to fix. Dunn, a member of the Senate’s Transportation Committee, called a meeting last week to address everyone’s concerns.

The automated project will go on, The Register reported after the hearing, and staff cutbacks will be reconsidered. In addition, Caltrans says the truckers who use the system will be brought into the problem-solving process, and their input will be important.

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