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Monday, February 14, 2005

Talking Transportation: Let’s Blame the Trucks

By Jim Cameron

Special to WestportNow

Whats the biggest cause of congestion and delays on I-95? Just ask anyone who drives that route, day or night, and theyҒll say trucks. Unfortunately, those opinions, while popular, are not supported by the facts.


Those of you who know me should recognize that Im no apologist for the trucking industry. IҒd love to get trucks off of the highways and on to freight cars on rails. Unfortunately, that isnt likely in the foreseeable future (the topic for a whole other column).

Neither is the token effort of barging a few hundred trucks a day from New York docks to Bridgeport going to make much difference, though I still support that idea as well. Rather than looking for a scapegoat, letҒs consider the facts before we blame truckers for the mess we have created.

As Pogo said, We have met the enemy and he is us.Ӕ It is all of us in our single occupancy vehicles (s.o.v.s) that cause the congestion, not trucks. Here are the facts:

Trucks are high-occupancy vehicles. They dont drive up and down the interstates empty. TheyҒre delivering goods that we want to buy. How do you think the big boxes get to the big box storesӔ?

Every piece of clothing, item of food, and newsprint for your newspaper was delivered by truck. Our insatiable consumption created this demand.

Trucks are only permitted on the interstate highways, while s.o.vs can use local streets or the parkway. Did you know that the average journey on I-95 is less than 10 miles? We local residents use our interstates like cross-town shortcuts and wonder why theyҒre congested.

Trucks deliver their goods when the merchants tell them. Why are trucks on I-95 at rush hour? Because selfish store owners wont accept deliveries outside of the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. store hours they find convenient.

In parts of Manhattan, by law, all truck deliveries must be made at night—and the daytime street traffic flows more freely.

Trucks are responsible for most of the accidents. Wrong. Sure, trucks do occasionally jackknife, dump their contents and cause delays. But often those accidents are caused by s.o.v. drivers.

Connecticut Department of Transportation statistics prove that most accidents on I-95 involve cars, not trucks. In general, I think truck drivers are better than automobile drivers. ItҒs what they do for a living.

Unlike s.o.v. drivers, truckers dont juggle a cellphone, toddler and a latte while operating their vehicle.

How about the truck inspection stations? Why arenҒt they open more hours? Good question and best answered by the NIMBY politicians from Greenwich, whose clout has kept those safety stations closed so their tony neighbors wont complain.

Even the trucking industry supports greater safety vigilance, so letҒs open those inspection stations 24 x 7—and hit them all with a toll while theyre there, especially trucks that are just ғpassing through the state, treating Connecticut like ԓdrive over country.

And while weԒre at it, lets force the industry to design a cleaner diesel engine to save whatever is left of our LA-quality air. LetҒs open more parking areas so road-weary truckers dont have to sleep on the shoulder at night.

And sure, letҒs pass a law stopping truckers from using jake brakesӔ to noisily downshift. Im all in favor of safer, cleaner and quieter trucks.

But letҒs not kid ourselves when it comes to explaining the true cause of our traffic mess. Next time youre crawling up I-95, look around you. Count the number of s.o.vҒs and the number of trucks. Then tell me whos really causing the delays?

It may be easy to blame it on the trucks—but itҒs not true.

jimcameron75.jpg(Editor’s Note: Jim Cameron has been a Darien resident for 14 years. He is vice chairman of the Connecticut Metro-North Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council and a member of the Coastal Corridor Transportation Investment Area, one of five Transportation Investment Areas established by the Connecticut General Assembly in July 2001 to develop 20-year strategic plans for each of the state’s major transportation corridors. He is also a member of the Darien Representative Town Meeting. The opinions and accuracy of information in this article are the responsibility of the contributor. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or http://www.trainweb.org/ct)


Posted 02/14/05 at 04:08 AM  Permalink


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Thank you for your thoughta on I-95 I agree with much of your thinking but…..

It is my feeling that the trucks have a lot to do with setting the pace! They do this by recklessly tailgating cars and trucks alike, and exceeding the posted limits. DRAFTING IS DANGEROUS TO EVERYONE - MOST OF ALL THE TRUCK DRIVERS.

Proper enforcement by the police could be a big help but, with only eleven troopers on duty from the NY/CT line to East Haven how much can they do. And even that effort costs at least $3.3 million per year, according to Commissioner of Public Safty Boyle (head of the State Police) when speaking recently to the Y’s Men of Westport/Weston. Also most of there time is consumed by covering accidents. (Bad term, they should be callerd COLLISIONS because they are rarely accidential).

The entire task is either impossible or poorly managed. I vote for the former.

It will stay that way until new engineering, maybe closing some entrances and exits, or budgeting more funds for enforcement. My vote and many of my cohorts would be to stress enforcement first.

The current idea of the fourth lane for entering and exiting is a no brainer and will mostly provide an extra lane for the people who prefer to pass on the right, with its inherent dangers.. I’m old enough to remember when passing on the right was a real no-no. Of course it is permitted on Connecticut’s roads with more that two lanes of traffic.

Posted by Alan Beasley on February 14, 2005 at 02:41 PM | #

I am more apt to agree with Alan Beasley re trucks. Anyone on I-95 after 7:30 PM knows that trucks seem to feel they own it. The rest of us are just trespassers (I don’t drive an SUV). Has anyone investigated the idea of having trucks drive on the far left (the fast lane)? This might solve a problem or two if they are on the road for the long haul. If they are confined to the middle and left lanes, it would permit greater and safer access for the rest of us, as well as force more of us to drive not more than ten miles above the speed limit.

Posted by Carole Donenfeld on February 14, 2005 at 08:10 PM | #

I have often seen the State Police stopping passenger vehicles for speeding, but never have I seen a tractor/trailer stopped. I would be interested in seeing data that contradicts my impression.

Posted by Dick Lowenstein on February 15, 2005 at 04:26 AM | #

Dick Lowenstein makes a good point. The Citizens Transportation Lobby has asked CT St. Police for data on speeding tickets by vehicle type and found they don’t collect it! The ticket says either “car” or “truck”, but makes no distinction of panel truck vs 18 wheeler.

Posted by Jim Cameron on February 18, 2005 at 02:23 AM | #

Cops never target the 18 wheelers, but will
stop a guy in a very safe new car because
thats where the money is. Truckers abuse
the speed limits constantly, drive very
reckless and are rude. We absolutely must
address this soon or our highways are gone.

Posted by Cody Kennedy on March 04, 2005 at 02:28 AM | #