By Nathan Barton
As part of my environmental work, I subscribe to Aggregates Manager, whose daily newsletter carried an article this morning about a fatality in Texas. A gravel truck tee-boned a vehicle with four people, injuring three and killing outright a 13-year-old girl.
Above is the accident scene, from Google (the yellow line gives that away). The 35-year-old truck driver was not harmed (of course). Aggregates Manager claims the investigation is on-going but that someone must have run a traffic light.
But that means that they are ignoring the real cause: the American addiction to “build-build-build” that requires millions and millions of tons of gravel (and just as bad, sand and crushed rock and concrete and asphalt) be hauled on the same roads and highways as our precious children. Usually in huge, multi-unit trucks. These trucks carry 30,000 to 50,000 to 90,000 pounds of rock at a time, hurtling down our highways barely under control of the truck drivers. They use 10- to 18- (or more) wheels to drive down the roads on: huge whiles, with tires 18, 20, even 25 inches in diameter and often a foot wide or more!
Have you ever seen what a SmartCar or a Kia looks like after it has been driven over by 5 to 9 tires supporting those huge quantities of rock? Tires not much smaller than the eco-friendly little cars that they can compact down to only a few inches high, little different than the road-killed deer and cattle that these monster trucks also kill with abandon on our highways?
Worse, the gravel and such they haul is a non-sustainable resource, produced by raping the earth: stripping it of its soil and then penetrating it with other huge machines: even shafting it and pushing explosives in and blowing them (and the earth) up with abandon. And this material is consumed as it is used and not replaceable except by going out and stripping and destroying still more land. (Yes, a tiny bit is “recycled” but that is mostly sham recycling, since the material “recycled” is just used to build more roads and buildings and such.)
And governments DO recognize this is dangerous and a threat to public safety. For example, they don’t allow anyone under the age of 21 to drive these things. And require special licensing, limit how many hours they can drive a day and week, and have many other rules. But still, children get killed.
Folks, this is just wrong. Nobody – absolutely NObody – should need more than a couple thousand pounds of rock or sand at a time, enough to build a wheelchair ramp or a back porch for granny. And nobody should need to deliver that material (if they really need it) tens of thousands of pounds at a time. We need some common sense laws to control this menace. It isn’t just children that are killed by mining and hauling this fossil resource: every year as many as twenty miners die and hundreds or thousands more or injured. Accidents between these huge trucks and smaller, vulnerable vehicles carrying children, mothers, fathers and pets are a daily occurrence.
Where are our priorities? Building new roads and buildings to generate profit for big capitalists and corporations? Or protecting our children and families?
So it is proposed:
- Get rid of high-capacity trucks: limit loads to 2,000 pounds of sand or gravel: nothing bigger than a RAM 2500 or so. (And NO trailers: those things assault the senses and damage roads and slow traffic.)
- Expand the licensing system for drivers of even the smaller vehicles: require them all to get a Commercial Drivers License, even to drive a 1/4-ton or 1/2-ton truck. Safety cannot be ignored. And require annual retraining of all of these drivers, and testing to ensure that they are still competent.
- Limit speeds of these vehicles to something a little bit safer. Perhaps 25 miles per hour is going to be a reasonable compromise.
- Prohibit even deliveries of 2,000 pounds within 1/2 mile of schools, churches, playgrounds, day-care centers, and all McDonalds with Playplaces – anywhere children are likely to be present. Of course, exceptions could be allowed, provided they had police cars escorting them and a minimum one-week advance notice for planning. Or alternatively, require that only government-owned and -operated trucks be allowed in those areas, with government employees at the wheel.
- Remove all references – especially pictures – in school textbooks about sand and gravel mining, trucking, truck driving, and related activities and jobs.
I realize this would cost billions, but what is this poor 13-year-old girl’s life worth? And those of dozens of other children each year? Supposedly, there are many benefits of having these monsters on the same roads as our children, day in and day out, all hours, carrying billions of pounds of rock and sand all over the nation, but can any of these really compare to saving a single child’s life?
(Yes, folks, I’m trying to be satirical.)