Friday, January 25, 2008

Rain Followup

Our rain gauge showed another 1.5" fell from 9 am 24 Jan to 9 am 25 Jan 2008.

I've been thinking about the impact of weather on traffic safety, especially after reading Unsafe trucks stream out of L.A.'s ports.
Miguel had more reason than usual to be anxious as he drove his aging big rig out of the Port of Los Angeles' bustling China Shipping Terminal.

By his own admission, his 24-year-old truck was dangerously overloaded. The suspension was shot, the tires nearly bald. Over his CB radio, other drivers barked warnings that the California Highway Patrol had set up several checkpoints nearby.

"If I get inspected, I could get put out of business," he said, easing into traffic while scanning for the CHP. "Something real bad could happen at any moment on the road. I'm doing the best I can. It's a vicious cycle."
Most of those trucks are traveling over mountain passes (with faulty brakes!) to inland distribution centers for big box retailers. What is the true cost of the lower prices? Is it any wonder Angelenos spend so much time in traffic, trapped behind truck "accidents"?

Even under the best of circumstances, we are hemmed in by the unending truck traffic. People who live near L.A.'s ports can see America's growing addiction to cheap imported goods.
Profit margins for the independent operators who serve the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports are thin -- so some, like Miguel, cut corners whenever possible.

For example, because a gauge showed that the weight of his load exceeded regulations -- and because he views his truck's brakes as untrustworthy -- Miguel used the trailer's brakes to stop the entire rig. The CHP considers that maneuver particularly dangerous -- and illegal.

Like many other independent haulers, he contracts with licensed motor carriers, or a trucking broker, linked to shipping companies and cargo owners, such as big-box retailers. Each morning, Miguel shows up at the broker's dispatch window to solicit jobs.

Like other drivers serving the ports, he's a "short-haul trucker," ferrying containers to distribution centers across Southern California.

He gets paid by the load -- the equivalent of about $8.90 an hour -- and works 65 hours a week.

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