Truck Accidents Irritate Central Texas Drivers, But Truckers Not - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Truck Accidents Irritate Central Texas Drivers, But Truckers Not Always to Blame

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(KCEN) -- Traffic on I-35: It's a daily problem, simply a part of life for drivers in central Texas.

Some of the bigger back-ups are caused by accidents involving tractor-trailers, like the fiery wreck near Bruceville-Eddy Tuesday morning.

Michael Buell lives outside Austin, and just got hired in McLennan County. He drives I-35 a lot, right alongside the big rigs.

“Most of them are pretty decent,” he said, “but there are some that, especially at night -- I travel a lot at night -- at night, they're just hauling, and they'll get right on your backside."

And truck accidents easily shut down highways, like the fiery wreck between two tractor-trailers Tuesday morning that closed I-35 for at least five hours.

And while we were out shooting this story Wednesday, a semi rear-ended a woman on Highway 6 near the Bagby Avenue overpass, after she hit a hearse driving in front of her.

One person was injured in that crash. She was taken to the hospital with significant, but non-life threatening, injuries. Both she and the trucker will likely get tickets for the crash.

The skid marks on the road from the truck stretch back to that overpass, at least a hundred feet from where the accident happened. It takes a long time to stop those heavy loads.

“Altogether, we're close to 80,000 pounds, and, you know, we can't stop as fast,” said Mitchell Pace, who drives a big rig up and down I-35 at least two or three times a week.

It takes “hundreds of feet” to stop so much weight, said Trooper D.L. Wilson with the Department of Public Safety.

That's why traffic cops do what they can to make sure the trucks are working like they should.

"Brakes, defective equipment, things like this” are usually what officers stop trucks for, along with following too close.

Last month, DPS pulled over nearly 9,000 trucks during Operation Roadcheck. One in five had safety issues.

Then there's speed -- not usually a big reason cops ticket truckers. That’s partly because many have speed regulators (“governors,” in industry lingo), and because truck drivers tell each other where police are hiding using CB radios.

But truckers say there's only so much they can do to avoid crashes, especially in construction zones.

"[Drivers] just jump in front of us slam on their brakes, and they expect, ‘Oh, it's okay, you know, they're going to stop.’"

With concrete barriers on both sides of the road in those construction zones, if there’s a problem, there’s nowhere for anyone, including 60-foot big rigs, to go.

There’s also no way for cops to slow people down.

“The concrete barriers that they're putting up and everything else makes it difficult for us to pull somebody over,” said Bruceville-Eddy Police Chief Bill McLean.

In just the four-mile stretch of I-35 BEPD patrols, they've had four dozen wrecks since January.

And while truck crashes usually take the longest to clear, traffic cops say in general, truckers are good to have in traffic back-ups.

“They'll tend to move over and actually help us in a lot of instances,” BEPD Officer Scott Millsap said. Truck drivers can also get on those CB radios and tell other truckers about an accident up ahead.

Still, irresponsible big rig drivers can cause big problems, and big friction between themselves and other drivers.

“One can't stand the other and the other can't stand the other,” said Colorado-based trucker Ray Thompson.

But police – and drivers -- say it takes both working together to keep I-35 flowing.

"We're trying to be a lot more aware than just anybody driving a car, you know,” Pace said, “because we got a lot more responsibility."

“It's a collective problem,” said Buell. “It's not just the truckers."

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