California to install automated permit system

| 7/2/2003

Three years after a state audit recommended it, Caltrans has agreed to set up an automated permit system for oversized trucks to prevent accidents, The Los Angeles Times reports.

The $5.8-million computer system, which will evaluate highway conditions based on the latest data and issue permits to truckdrivers over the Internet, could be operating by fall 2004, Caltrans officials said.

State Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana, pressed Caltrans to install the automated permit system.

"The sooner we take out the chance of human error, the safer it is going to be for the traveling public,” he said. “This is long overdue."

The problem: misrouting trucks

Legislators and others called for an automated system after a May 2000 audit that found Caltrans had misrouted more than 30 oversized trucks on state highways between 1996 and 1999.

The reviews uncovered errors that resulted in serious accidents, including a bridge collapse in Lompoc and the death of Tam Trong Tran, 36, of Westminster in July 1999. Tran was killed when an oversized tanker truck hit an overpass on the Riverside Freeway near Anaheim. Caltrans had granted the 15-foot-high truck a permit to travel that route, although the overpass clearance was only 14 feet, 10 inches.

The May 2000 audit concluded that the permit office was understaffed, and the system of hand-processing permits increased the potential for human error. It recommended Caltrans improve training and devise a computer system to block permits for trucks too big for local conditions.

Drivers with oversized loads or vehicles are required to get permission to use state highways from Caltrans, which reviews construction projects, bridge heights and road conditions to ensure routes are safe. About 200,000 permits are issued annually.