If you live in Mississippi, you are familiar with log trucks. These rigs ply Mississippi roads, with their valuable cargo of newly harvested logs. Logging is a vital part of the state’s economy, with a growing impact. Most of those logs travel by truck to mills for processing. Last year, according to the MSU Extension Service, loggers harvested about $1.67 billion worth of trees.
But it can be a dangerous occupation. Those who drive log trucks may be combining two of the most dangerous occupations (as listed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics): Timber cutting and truck driving. While the vast majority of loads get to their destinations without incident, other drivers may not keep a proper distance from the truck, especially when approaching from the rear. The Mississippi Department of Transportation this week issued a reminder for drivers to keep a safe distance between their vehicles and log trucks.
The warning is especially timely, as many of us are still adjusting to the fallback for Daylight Saving Time, combined with the shorter daylight hours of late fall. “To help reduce potential crashes, we want to ensure the traveling public is aware of these log trucks and alert for them, especially during early evening and morning hours,” said Chief Willie Huff, director of the MDOT Office of Enforcement.
Most drivers learn to gauge distances pretty well, using the brain’s remarkable ability to learn and adapt. We use a combination of experience, visual cues and depth perception to figure out just how far away an object is so we can adjust our speed and distance accordingly. Most of the time, it serves us well. But when a vehicle is traveling at highway speed, complicated by low visibility, the task becomes much harder.
To help avoid crashes, state law requires log trucks to follow certain regulations. For example, log truck drivers must have a permit to be on the road two hours before sunrise and two hours after sunset. Log trucks may let their cargo “overhang” 12 feet from the back of the truck, and the longest log must be marked with a red flag during the day and an amber or red flashing light at night. This is so drivers behind the truck can have a fixed point by which to gauge distance.
To help illustrate, MDOT has produced a video to demonstrate the visibility of a log truck at 90 feet, 20 feet and at 10 feet. It would be a good idea to review it, and (especially for less-experienced drivers) to understand that you need to give log trucks (or any truck) a wide berth.
To report safety concerns on Mississippi highways, visit GoMDOT.com. For current travel information, visit MDOTtraffic.com, dial 511 or download the free MS Traffic app from the App Store or Google Play.