Written by Solomon Neuhardt
Tuesday, 05 April 2011 17:07
If you’ve never seen a megaload on the highway, that’s the way the trucking industry wants it. Take a good look at the picture below. Notice the semi-truck cabs in it. That will give you a sense of scale.
This is what they mean when they talk about megaloads. Seriously huge (and heavy) equipment on the move, on regular highways, sometimes at night and usually scheduled and routed so you won’t see them. The major reason is because when they come to the public’s attention, lawsuits get filed.
A recent spate just got reset as injunctions were issued against transporting huge refinery equipment across Montana from Idaho to oil fields in Canada.
The major problems with these loads are the damage they do to roads and the possibility of serious accidents with incredible clean-up costs. The final straw is that Montana receives no benefits from allowing these behemoths to use our roads. And state roads are preferred because interstates won’t allow these. A transportation company that used the interstate instead of the back roads would have to take the same load (seen above) and cut it up into smaller pieces. The pieces would then be reassembled on arrival at the final destination at an added expense.
The current fight is over letting Exxon transport these oil containers, some as long as a 20 story building, and other megaloads up highway 12 through Lolo pass and Missoula, then highway 200 North, eventually up to Alberta. After Yellowstone County Commissioners approved some of these loads in January to Billings (for ConocoPhillips) the idea suddenly became feasible. The difference now is that such loads wouldn’t end up in Montana and wouldn’t help our citizens, but just pass through the state.
Is it dangerous?
Maybe. We can extrapolate from last year’s filming of an episode of “Ice Road Truckers.” This is a television program that typically shows super and megaloads transported across Alaskan “ice roads.” The interesting thing is that when the show wanted to restage an accident, they chose a location in Montana to do so.
They got permission to close the highway in Bear Tooth Pass, North of Yellowstone. The reason was simple – conditions duplicated what is found in Alaska, steep slopes and dangerous curves. Regular barriers on the side of the roadway do not stop one of these giants if they tip.
The current round of lawsuits pushes the environmental impact over the danger of an accident. This includes tearing up roads, bridges and putting “recreational and scenic areas” at risk. The current plan for Exxon Mobile is for 207 loads – a significant strain on the terrain. Because bridges would block the passage of these loads (some as tall as 30 feet), smaller roadways are preferred but even these have to be modified to make sure there are no overhead wires and no shoulder obstructions.
In Idaho, a bill just passed the State Senate (HB 193a) that limits the lawsuits which can be filed by requiring up to a 10% bond (percentage of the insured cost of the load) before filing for an injunction. It is apparent they are siding with the trucking and oil companies. Whether Montana will capitulate remains to be seen.
For now, the lawsuits have held up the loads at our border with Idaho. They may be cut up, re-packaged and sent, or the court fights might continue.
Billings Truck Accident Lawyer
Solomon Neuhardt is the lead attorney at the Neuhardt Law Firm in Billings, MT and specializes in semi truck accident injury cases. Click here to view semi truck accident articles and videos.