By Derek Spellman
Even before last month’s deadly turnpike crash in Oklahoma, transportation planners across the country were talking about how to go about separating cars from trucks.
In recent years, proposals to create “truck-only lanes” have gained ground as governments look not only at improving safety but also at how to cope with projected increases in traffic volume and how to more efficiently move freight.
“I think that it has gained traction for a lot of different reasons,” said Randy Mullett, vice president of government relations and public affairs for Con-Way Inc., a trucking company that has a base in Joplin.
Still, it’s mostly unexplored territory. Although such lanes have seen limited use over short distances in New Jersey, California and Texas, nothing large-scale has been implemented.
Click the player to view a video produced by the Missouri Department of Transportation discussing the construction and benefits of designated truck lanes on Interstate-70 across Missouri.
Transportation and trucking officials like the idea, although the key questions are how to pay the costs and who would pay them. Some highway-safety advocates have balked at even the idea, partly because its staggering costs and logistics render it unfeasible, partly because of safety concerns.
Missouri, meanwhile, could be the first real experiment.
Numbers and I-70
Of the 41,059 people killed in vehicle crashes in 2007, 12 percent of them died in crashes involving a large truck, according to the most recent report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. About 17 percent of those killed in the large-truck crashes were the occupants of the large trucks.
Last month, a tractor-trailer plowed into a line of stopped cars on the Will Rogers Turnpike in northeast Oklahoma, killing 10 people. The truck driver, Donald Creed, survived.
Authorities are still investigating the accident but have speculated that driver fatigue might have been a cause. Creed, a driver for Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc., had worked 10 hours when the crash occurred June 26. Creed was within the legal limits, although authorities said the long hours and heat of that day might have led to fatigue.
<img src="http://www.joplinglobeonline.com/images/zope/extra.gif" border=0>Missouri could be testing ground for truck-only lanes<font color="#ff0000"> w/ MoDOT video</font>
By Derek Spellman
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