ITD Gives Megaloads Green Light

The protocol for Imperial Oil megaloads on U.S. Highway 95 changed this week as the shipments received the green light from the Idaho Transportation Department to resume travel.

ITD temporarily suspended permission for the loads to travel after an accident Dec. 6 south of Moscow on Highway 95. Three rigs, including the one involved in the accident, would have been allowed to go Thursday, but they were postponed to an undetermined date because of weather.

When they hit the road, a pilot vehicle will be placed in front of the lead load before it leaves the staging area about a mile south of Moscow, where the rigs create a convoy before entering the city, according to a report from ITD and the Idaho State Police.

Typically, the oversized loads travel 15 minutes apart, but they form a group to go through Moscow, then disband on the north side of town, said ISP Capt. Lonnie Richardson.

The pilot car will act as a “physical barrier and a deterrent against the lead load departing until they have received formal instruction from the traffic control team/coordinator that it is safe to do so,” according to the report that was released Thursday by ITD.

The new plan came after two all-day meetings, one at the Port of Lewiston and a second at Edmonton, Canada, where senior management of Mammoet analyzed data, according to the report. Mammoet is Imperial Oil’s hired transportation company.

The accident happened when the lead load followed an ISP cruiser out of a staging area without being instructed to do so, according to the report. It struck and damaged a 1996 Chevrolet Astro van belonging to James Urquidez, a Moscow cabinetmaker, Richardson said.

“The driver in question (of the megaload) had never driven the lead load, but had been a part of the convoy two other times and had no issues,” according to the report.

Vladmir Purgar, of Alberta, Canada, has been cited with inattentive driving in Latah County in connection with the accident. The misdemeanor case is set for a pretrial conference on Jan. 10.

In Latah County, the standard penalty for a first-time offense of inattentive driving is $440, including court costs, and the court reduces the fine by $200 if any damages caused by an accident have been paid, said county Prosecutor William Thompson Jr.

ITD and Imperial Oil referred questions to Mammoet about if Purgar faces any disciplinary action. Mammoet did not immediately return a call left Thursday.

Meanwhile, Urquidez said he is making progress on receiving compensation. He’s getting a check for the loss of use of his van and expects money to replace the vehicle as soon as he can locate the title and send it to the insurance provider, said Urquidez, who declined to discuss the amounts of the checks. “I was going to look around and see if I could get a comparable vehicle for what they’re offering.”

To get by, he’s purchased a 1993 Jeep Cherokee from his own money and is borrowing a vehicle of his employer to haul cabinets to jobs, said Urquidez, whose family includes three children and his wife, a stay-at-home mother.

So far nothing has been discussed about the back pain he said he has experienced since the accident. Urquidez said he thinks that will happen later.

“Initially they were slow out of the gate,” he said, “but it seems like they’re trying to get things moving now and that’s fine.”

(By Elaine Williams, The Lewiston Tribune)

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