Alabama activists target unsafe trucks in new campaign

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Alabama motorists can report unsafe trucks anonymously to a new hot line, promoted by an activist group that endorses a state senator’s plans to toughen enforcement.

The hot line is part of the Roll on Safely Alabama campaign, sponsored by the consumer group Alabama Watch and the Gadsden law firm of Cusimano, Keener, Roberts, Kimberley & Miles, which specializes in personal-injury and civil suits.

The hot line will be promoted via bumper stickers and billboards that read: “Unsafe trucks? Report them! (888) 883-ROAD.”

Witnesses may provide contact information or elect to remain anonymous.

The campaign website at urges visitors to report “reckless or endangering behavior, indications of improper loads, signs that a driver may be fatigued or any other indications that a large truck may be engaging in unsafe activity, or possibly causing crashes.”

“My question is: How do you establish whether it’s a credible call or not?” said Frank Filgo, president of the state trucking association. “The last thing we need is an angry motorist reporting something that is untrue.”

Filgo cited federal statistics that show trucks are involved in less than 3 percent of crashes statewide. Moreover, trucks are the only highway segment nationwide to show a decrease in accidents in recent years, Filgo said.

The campaign website says copies of any reports will be sent to Gov. Bob Riley, the Alabama Trucking Association and state Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla, who plans to introduce unsafe-truck legislation.

According to the website, one of Means’ bills would expand the powers of law enforcement officers so they could arrest a driver for a motor vehicle offense even if the offense was not committed in the officers’ presence.

If a state trooper sees a parked truck with a load too heavy, too long or not flagged properly, for example, the officer wouldn’t have to wait until the driver returns to the highway to take action.

Means’ other bill would end an insurance exemption for in-state logging trucks, requiring them to carry the same minimum liability insurance as other commercial carriers.

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The campaign website quotes Means: “More than 20 years ago, in 1983, Alabama Supreme Court Justice ‘Red’ Jones wrote, ‘The most feared of all vehicles on the highways of this state, and for good reason, is not the truck hauling explosives, or toxic chemicals, or even atomic waste, but the old, overloaded, no-brakes, slick-tired, one-headlight, no tail lights, uninsured log truck.’ And here we are 20 years later, and not much has changed. Well, we’re going to do something about that.”