CHOKEPOINTS

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

Jul 14, 2016, 5:51 AM | Updated: 11:13 am

covered load...

Most of the time, the driver has to pay to get a windshield fixed. (Joshua Ganderson)

(Joshua Ganderson)

You’ve probably had your windshield cracked by a rock or other small debris that flew out of the bed of a commercial truck. If you haven’t, you probably know someone who has.

Is it time to require that big trucks be covered, just like the rest of us?

Kim from Snoqualmie was wondering why those big trucks don’t have to follow the same covered-load rules that the rest of us do.

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The law states: trucks carrying dirt, sand or gravel need to be covered unless they have six inches of freeboard above the bed of the truck. Freeboard is the distance from the top of the bed and where the load hits the side of the bed.

Even if trucks have a cover, they don’t need to use it if they have that six inches of clearance. It’s up to each individual company or driver on whether to cover.

Judy Clibborn, head of the Washington State Department of Transportation committee, says the original idea of the covered load law was to have these trucks cover their loads when they could and then upgrade their trucks over time.

“The intent of if you got a cover, cover it and as you trade out your vehicles as part of your fleet, make them capable so that it isn’t a big hit (to your budget),” she said. “I don’t think that was followed up on.”

Clibborn said the covered load issue has been overshadowed by distracted driving issues over the last few years, but it could come back up. She wonders if the law should be changed to require these trucks to cover their loads:

“Do we need to stiffen that, so that if you have the capability to do it and you’re not is there something that you get ticketed for?” she asked.

One of the other reasons these commercial trucks were given this exception is monetary. Clibborn says they didn’t want to burden small companies with a small fleet and require them to retrofit their trucks or face penalties.

She says drivers who get hit with a rock or debris should get the truck name or license plate and file a complaint with the company and the Washington State Patrol.

“If people took their licenses and tracked them down and made an attempt, people might be more likely to put those canopies on,” Clibborn said.

Drivers are usually left holding the bag with a cracked windshield unless they have convincing evidence the rock came from a particular truck.

Some companies have said they are willing to help drivers out if they can prove the rock came from one of their rigs.

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