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Education & safety behind CHP stopping off-route truckers
With tape measure in hand CHP Officer Roger Remington checks the length of a commercial rig just south of Yosemite Avenue on the Highway 99 southbound onramp. It measured 73 feet – over the 65 foot legal limit. - photo by GLENN KAHL
The CHP is stopping truckers in Manteca who they find driving off an established truck route. It’s all about safety, liability and education. They are hoping to channelize truck traffic with a lot less road damage.

When truckers come off Highway 99 they find no established terminal truck route. They are often met with a short turning radius at corners, and improper striping only to be stopped by members of the California Highway Patrol Commercial Enforcement team.

It’s all about improving the truckers’ routing to their destinations by asking them to write to the cities and the county and complain about the lack of terminal access routes, often due to past  engineering that doesn’t meet the demands of a 1982 state Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA).

The engineering on the major arterial and other access roads into Spreckels Industrial Park were completed long after the 1982 law was enacted by the state as was the engineering on the Highway 99 and Yosemite Avenue interchange – both in contention for truck drivers.

I went on a ride-along last week with CHP Officer Vic Abel in his black and white commercial enforcement pick-up truck to get something of a handle on how the highway patrol is working with truckers who are off route in Manteca.

We first drove the back roads to Ripon where he explained that Jack Tone Road has been designated as one of the few “terminal truck routes” in the region feeding into two truck stops at the intersection with Highway 99 along with other businesses associated with truckers’ service needs.  The Jack Tone Road designation extends northward beyond Stockton to Eight Mile Road.

“If we see an issue we put enforcement on it,” Abel said.  He alluded to the fact that trucks off the truck route cause road damage.  “Businesses are reaping all the rewards while the taxpayers and the cities are paying for the damage,” he said.

He noted that cities such as Manteca can open all their roads to trucks if they wish to do so.  “But they have to be very careful where they allow access routes, because it opens them up to liability.”
Terminal truck routes are few
Truckers know when they are on a terminal truck route – there are but very few – that allow oversized vehicles by the posted blue and white signs on the road side with a large white “T.”  When the posted sign displays a large “S” on a blue field that indicates a driver may travel up to one mile from the off ramp to obtain food, fuel, lodging or repairs.

Less than one per cent of the roadways in California are legally open to the large commercial trucks that carry food and other supplies up and down the state, the officer said.  Those big rigs are limited to a gross weight of 80,000 pounds and 65 feet in length.

The officer further noted that those exceeding the lawful weight limit are often found by mobile enforcement officers detouring off the main roads attempting to avoid the CHP scales.  The patrol’s pickup trucks carry their own portable scales that are used in the field to determine the gross weight.  Each scale is capable of weighing up to 20,000 pounds being placed under four separate wheels for a total determination of 80,000 pounds.

Caltrans is now authorizing new access roads that exit from the freeways, but most of those are on I-5, the officer said.  Trucks exiting from Highway 99 at Yosemite Avenue may only travel in an east bound direction on Yosemite.

The vehicle code doesn’t consider how “securitous” the route is as long as it is established by a city or county.  And that is the intent of the patrol’s actions to get truckers to seek an authorized route in Manteca through their personal lobbying of the city council, since some routes now being used are in violation of the 1982 state STAA trucking network legislation.

Officer Abel said the CHP is only trying to protect the infrastructure of the roadways for both the cities and the county.  One intersection that is almost impossible for truckers to negotiate is at Moffat and Spreckels roads where westbound truck traffic meets a definite turning radius challenge when drivers are attempting to go northbound on Spreckels Avenue.

San Joaquin County Chief of Traffic Operations, Engineer Dodgie Vidad met us on the ride-along, and we talked standing along Highway 120.  He explained that often just restriping a roadway to make turns safer and more negotiable for trucks can be a first step toward meeting the law’s requirements.  Intersection limit lines at signals can sometimes be moved back so that vehicle traffic leaves more room for the turning big rigs.

“We have taken a proactive role in San Joaquin County,” Vidad said.

Campaign spurred by safety concerns
He noted that the current campaign to keep trucks on terminal access truck routes is targeting San Joaquin County and all the cities in the county.  It is primarily being done for safety, keeping the long trucks and cars from getting into accidents with each other, he explained.

While on the ride-along Officer Abel made a traffic stop on a trucker who had pulled into Spreckels Park  to eat and was getting back on the freeway headed for his base in Shafter.  The semi -rig exceeded the 65 foot limit under the STAA law measuring 73 feet.  The stop was made on the on ramp just south of Yosemite Avenue.

Abel did not cite the driver for being off the truck route or for his length overage, but he didn’t ignore several mechanical violations that included a turn signal, and a horn that were not functioning as well as a missing registration tag.  He said in looking at the truck’s log book he could see the independent driver hadn’t had much business to keep him busy recently.

The officer did give the driver an educational packet that explained the California law with addresses he could use in asking the city for its help in establishing a truck route in Manteca.  Abel added that if a city denies to act on truckers’ applications the roadway in question may automatically become an established terminal access route.

Commercial Officer Roger Remington said, “It’s amazing how many companies run long trucks with their terminals on small roads.”

The officers added that the state makes the laws, but industry is looking for financial reasons for making changes while the state is looking toward safety concerns.

When the economy was booming and trucking companies like Swift in Lathrop were hiring new drivers each week, the CHP had its Commercial Industry Education Program (CIEP) ongoing where they would visit terminals such as Swift on Wednesdays with informational sessions.

The sample of a suggested letter format to be written by truckers to city and county leaders as a request for a terminal access route for the state’s Surface Transportation Assistance Act includes:

•The address of the business, its location and the location of the terminal.

•Naming the freeway to road destination for a terminal access route.

•Requested route for access to a business operating center to and from named freeway.

•Enclose a map of the above described truck route.

Six cities as well as the county are listed in the package with names of public works directors and traffic engineers, along with their telephone numbers and email addresses, are also included.