Obvious Safety Violations

Vince Murray, Moscow

The Lewiston Tribune 12/30/11

“Safety” is a buzzword that surfaces frequently when Idaho Transportation Department or city officials talk about “megaload” protests, something with which I think everyone can agree, yet this buzzword doesn’t seem to apply to the shippers of these loads.

Recently, these shipments led directly to a second accident on Highway 95. No one was severely injured, but given that ExxonMobil hopes to transport many more loads on our local highways, the odds increase that someone might be in the future.

Watching the “megaloads” pass through Moscow, I have observed obvious safety violations. One night, a flagger working for Mammoet was standing at the intersection of Third and Washington streets (one of the busiest intersections in town) without a stop sign, the only tool that person has to maintain “safety.”

When I asked why she didn’t have a sign she candidly replied that her supervisor had neglected to bring her one. When I asked our local police if they had any control over such a situation, they said that safety associated with moving the loads is left solely to the shipper.

During the passage of another shipment, an experienced flagger on one side of Washington was actually yelling across three lanes of traffic and two parking lanes to teach an obviously inexperienced flagger on the far side of the road how to do his job, all while cars, trucks and “megaloads” passed between them. Another inexperienced flagger stopped traffic unnecessarily for 15 minutes on North Main Street merely because he had been inadequately instructed on how to do his job.

Mammoet’s troubling lack of attention to safety raises concerns about all aspects of their supervision. And, more broadly, when will we admit that allowing these loads on highways neither designed nor built to accommodate them is in itself inherently unsafe?

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