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Snow Doesn't Stop Truckers

State Capital Bureau

January 24, 1995

JEFFERSON CITY _ In front of Lee Roberts stretched miles and miles of cars, behind him, too, they stood at a standstill. And all around him were growing mounds of snow.

But it wasn't the nearly two feet of snow that was responsible for the lack of movement on I-70. It was the dozens of trucks, some of which had wandered onto the side of the road and others that had jackknifed, that put the highway into 24-hour lock down.

``Oh, boy, did we have a lot of trucks,'' said Roberts, who works for Don Lake Towing Service in Columbia.

These were trucks that had ignored an early morning advisory _ released statewide _ which advised vehicles not to drive through the area, unless it was an emergency, said Capt. Charles Jackson of the Missouri Highway Patrol Troop F.

``But there is nothing we can do to enforce the advisory,'' he said. ``It would be nice if we could say don't go on the road. But if I tell them they can't go on the road and something happens to their load and they are penalized, we could be sued.''

This inability of the Missouri Highway Patrol to keep trucks off the road, even when they present a hazard to other drivers, is frustrating to the men and women who patrol the state's highways.

Jackson said several states have enacted laws that prohibit trucks from driving in inclement weather.

In order for a truck company to get a permit to drive in Nebraska, the company must agree to pull trucks of a certain weight or height off the road in bad weather, said Brent Stacy, compliance review coordinator of the Nebraska Highway Patrol.

``The simple fact is that in ice and snow these vehicles are almost impossible to control,'' he said. ``The majority of states do have these types of provisions.''

However, no plans exist in Missouri to enact legislation that would prohibit trucks from going on the highways during bad weather, said Capt. Clarence Greeno, public information officer at the Missouri Highway Patrol.

``Obviously, it is dangerous to travel in bad weather conditions like that,'' he said. ``But to preclude trucks from driving is something that would require research.''

Many local trucking companies already take it upon themselves to give their drivers snow days during bad weather.

``We don't do business on the weekend or in bad weather,'' said Tom Larkin, manager of Columbia Trucking and Rigging Company. ``When I woke up Thursday morning, I knew to forget it.''

``There is nothing that says that you can't be out,'' Larkin said. ``You can go where you want to go, but I am sure there are some now who wish they hadn't risked it.''

Roberts can attest to that. He was behind the wheel of one of the few tow trucks big enough in mid-Missouri to pull semis out of a bind. He was responsible for freeing up the highway.

But he also was stuck in the jam.

``It was a nightmare,'' Roberts said. ``It was very difficult to get to them. Every time we would start, we would come to a place where we would just stop. Sometimes it would take us two or three or four hours to get to the trucks.''