How To Avoid A Dinged Windshield: Don’t Drive So Close!

That's the mantra from the Washington State Patrol after a rash of complaints about falling gravel. Drivers are pointing the finger at construction trucks, but the State Patrol is pointing a finger right back at those complaining drivers.

"There's one there. This lady just decided at the last minute she needs that exit," says gravel hauler Doug Duncan as he hauls 20 yards of dirt and gravel along I-405.

Duncan says it feels like a daily game of "Don't-get-stuck-behind-the-truck." He complains about drivers going out of their way to cut him off, speed past him or tailgate.

It's the life of a big rig trucker.

"The drivers here are like in L.A. and everywhere else they don't really pay attention to large trucks," says Duncan.

On top of not getting any road respect, Duncan and about 200 other truckers hauling dirt and gravel for the third runway project at Sea-Tac Airport are also under fire for falling rocks.

"With the third runway project we are getting a lot of inquiries," says Washington State Patrol Officer Richard Griebel.

The Washington State Patrol says in a 4-month period, nearly 1,500 drivers complained big rigs are losing their loads, resulting in broken windshields.

"It just doesn't happen, the public thinks it does, but it just doesn't happen," says Duncan.

Even State Patrol says it's not necessarily the rocks from the load, but rocks being kicked up from the road. That's why every truck gets a bath before it leaves the runway job site. TTI Constructors just installed a new Wheel Wash.

"We're taking every precaution necessary," says Sea-Tac's third runway project manager Brian Kittleson with TTI Constructors. "Sometimes rocks can fall out of trucks and it does happen. We've paid for windshield claims but we're not always to blame."

The State Patrol says it gets back to what trucker Doug Duncan deals with every day: Other drivers that get too close.

"What we'd like to see the public do is back off a little bit from these guys running down the freeway," says Officer Griebel.

He says passenger vehicles are quick to point the finger at dump trucks because they can see the tip of their load above the height of the truck. But Griebel says that deceiving. If there is at least six inches of space between the side of the load and the top of the rig, the load is legal.

"Just because they can see the tip of the load they assume it's overweight, when actually it's not."

Griebel says it's a matter of how heavy the rigs run. Trucks at the third runway project are weighed every time they enter the job site. The heavy trucks that the State Patrol catches have to offload and get ticketed.

Griebel says the bottom line is that drivers and big rigs are just going to have to learn to get along. The big rigs aren't going away -- especially when it comes to the third runway project.

That won't be completed for quite some time. And when the job is complete, 12 million tons of dirt and gravel will be used to build the third runway. Kittleson says it will also boast the largest retaining wall in North America.

Before they could even begin building the runway, TTI had to reroute Miller Creek and had to move 154th Street to the North.

As for those nearly 1,500 loss load complaints, the State Patrol says only a small fraction of them have been linked to the third runway job.

600450 How To Avoid A Dinged Windshield: Don’t Drive So Close!

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