Two crashes that took four lives have resurrected concerns about the safety of a bypass in New Town, North Dakota, and the issue of truck driver fatigue.
The Highway 23 bypass, dubbed the New Town Truck Reliever Route, was constructed in 2014 to ease truck traffic traveling through Main Street. The road, which cost $25 million, was meant to enhance roadway safety in the region, a 2014 news release said.
But on Oct. 5, a semi-truck collided with a pickup head-on in a deadly crash on the Highway 23 bypass. The crash was the second to end in fatalities on the bypass. In 2017, two semi drivers collided near the same mile marker, which resulted in a blazing eruption that left both dead. In both incidents, a semi driver swung over the centerline of the road and crashed head-on with another automobile.
Crash data from the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute shows the majority of truck-involved injury crashes in North Dakota occur in the oil region, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
From 2012 to 2016, around 67% of truck-related crashes happened in North Dakota’s oil counties, according to figures from North Dakota’s Vision Zero Plan. The plan is part of a statewide initiative aimed at preventing motor vehicle crash fatalities and serious injuries.
There’s been nationwide focus in recent years to improve truck safety, including a 2017 order that commercial truck drivers keep an electronic logbook to record the hours they work. Federal regulations permit commercial truckers to work 14 hours in a day and spend 11 of those hours on the road.
Gerhart, a former colonel for the North Dakota Highway Patrol, highlighted that safety is a chief priority for trucking companies.
“I think to be successful in the trucking industry, you have to be safe and practice safe practices,” Gerhart said. “Ultimately, the goal is to get the goods to the consumer effectively and efficiently, and safety factors are key to that.”
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