Truck drivers could face stiffer penalties in Alabama

| 7/14/2006

Representatives for the steel and trucking industries met with state officials this week in Alabama to discuss safety issues related to trucking in the state.

Those gathered called for legislation to address concerns about securing loads of steel coils. If approved, such legislation would have truckers face $1,000 fines for lost loads or the permanent loss of their commercial driver’s licenses.

In the past three years, there have been at least eight accidents on Birmingham interstates in which steel coils dislodged from the backs of flatbed trucks, The Birmingham News reported. Most of those incidents occurred at Malfunction Junction, the Interstate 65 and I-20/59 interchange.

Other solutions discussed included $10,000 fines for trucking companies for each spill and reducing the speed limit on interstates around the city, The News reported.

Capt. Harry Kearley, head of the truck inspectors at the Alabama Department of Public Safety, said the problem is that truckers are not securing their loads, especially steel coils. He also said they are driving too fast on interstate ramps and bridges.

State Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, agreed with Kearley. He cited speeds as causing the most problems.

Alabama DPS Director Col. Mike Coppage said truckers aren’t the only ones guilty of speeding. He said all drivers exceed the speed limit.

Coppage said legislation could be enacted to establish safety zones in areas where traffic officials know there is a problem, The News reported. Traffic fines would be increased in those areas.

One proposal to address safety concerns was offered by the Alabama Trucking Association. The group wants to establish truck-only lanes. DPS officials, however, said enforcement would be too difficult.

ATA officials also suggested that steel companies inspect truckloads before they leave the steel plants, The News reported.

Waggoner; state Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood; Coppage and McInnes plan to meet soon with Gov. Bob Riley to discuss possible solutions. Any resulting legislation could be reviewed when the state Legislature convenes in March 2007.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor