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New bill would crack down on uncovered loads, flying debris

Brandon Magin replaced this windshield and couldn't help to think it could have been a fatality by inches. (Speedy Glass in Federal Way, Brandon Magin)

I bet everyone reading this article has had a rock fly off of a truck in front of them and hit their windshield. The fight to require every load in our state be covered continues in Olympia.

Shouldn’t truck drivers have to cover their loads like the rest of us?

When I had a rock fly out of a double dump truck and crack my windshield a few years ago, I was surprised to find out that trucks are not required to cover their loads like the rest of the public. If I go to the dump in a pickup, I have to cover my load, but large trucks do not.

The existing law provides a way around existing regulations, saying that if you put six inches of freeboard along the sides of your truck, you do not have to cover your load. You’ve likely seen trucks with a two-by-six or a two-by-eight jammed on the side of them. That’s what gets them around the requirement.

House Bill 2186 would get rid of that.

“It’s passed time to cover that loophole,” bill sponsor Rep. Christine Kilduff told the House Transportation Committee on Monday. “To avert further injury, avert further accidents, keep our roadways as safe as possible, and let’s have the folks that really should be bearing the cost of transporting these loads, not drivers or vehicle owners and not the traveling public.”

You’ve probably seen large trucks that have covers but don’t use them because they have the freeboard installed. They would have to start using those covers during the phase-in time of this bill, which is until July of 2022. After that, all loads, freeboard or not, must be covered.

The trucking industry is worried about the costs of this bill. It would hurt small operations to add the cost of covering. There are also concerns that the language of this bill would impact industries that don’t haul rocks, gravel, dirt, or sand. The bill includes a vague reference to “other loose material.”

Jerry Bonagofsky, who represents the logging industry, wants that defined.

Washington state troopers are targeting unsecured loads

“If that includes bark falling off a log truck, that would be a real concern for our industry,” he said. “There’s simply no way to prevent that from happening, and tarping a load of logs is not a feasible option. That’s impossible to do. Hay haulers and scrap haulers also have similar concerns.”

The covered load law was last changed 15 years ago, after Maria Federici was blinded and nearly killed when an entertainment center flew out of a U-Haul on I-405 in Bellevue. Her mother, Robin Abel, told the committee it’s time to update the law again.

“Every company in this room will tell you that safety is number one and that nothing is more important than our families, but we are here today fighting over the cost of covering these loads,” she said.

Similar legislation has been proposed before, but it failed to get through both the House and Senate in Olympia.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints

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