It might be time to examine safety requirements for trucks that have hydraulic lifts.
There have been two fatal crashes in Trumbull County involving trucks on Route 11 that had their raised hydraulic lifts slammed into overpasses. The drivers apparently didn't know that the lifts were deployed.
It seems hard to imagine that a driver would not feel some unusual wind resistance or shift in maneuverability while driving with a dump bed or garbage boom raised, but the frequency of such accidents is cause for concern. Less than two months ago a similar accident occurred in Massillon.
According to a report commissioned by the state of Maryland, extended booms are responsible for 11 percent of truck-overpass crashes. Most are the result of stacking cargo too high or an improperly marked low clearance bridge.
Most states, including Ohio, do not require trucks to contain alarms that warn drivers when the lift is not secured. New York law requires trucks to have a ''tilt bed warning light'' but even that does not prevent such accidents. Two years ago, a driver in New York crashed his raised dump bed into a bridge, dislodging the bed that was then sideswiped by a van containing eight children. Many were seriously injured.
In 2007 Raymond F. Cross Jr. was killed when he drove his garbage truck, with its boom extended, into the Niles-Vienna Road bridge over Route 11. His family is suing the trucking company for not maintaining an alarm that could have alerted Cross that the truck's lift was extended.
This year, James Black Jr., 49, of Sharon, Pa., drove a 2002 Peterbilt tractor with a partially raised dump bed trailer north on Route 11. The dump bed hit the King Graves Road overpass, causing the tractor-trailer to flip onto its side. Moments later Marc Titus drove his motorcycle into the trailer and died. Presumably, it was too dark for Titus to see the overturned trailer.
Around the country states employ a variety of standards governing bridge clearances and over-height vehicles. Few states keep extensive statistics on such accidents but the Maryland report indicated that such accidents were on the rise.
The American Society of Civil Engineers agrees that such accidents are increasing and it proposes a bridge bumper system to decrease that impact of such collisions. This system is also the focus of a 128-page report prepared by the University of Akron, University of California at Irvine and University of Houston. They indicate that investing in this system would offset the losses in bridge repair and road closure time while also protecting people.
Preventing the accidents should be easier and cheaper. We have alarms that sound when seatbelts are not fastened. We have systems that don't allow people to shift gears unless the foot is on the brake. Obviously, trucks need to have their beds raised while moving to perform certain tasks, especially at construction sites. But it should be simple to have trucks automatically shut off after reaching certain speeds with their hydraulic arms deployed.