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Truck safety going in reverse PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 18:23

While statistics point to growing highway carnage caused by trucks, Congress talks about weakening truck safety regulations

It happened nine years ago but it still evokes horror.

At midday on a Saturday, northbound vehicles were stopped on I-43 a few miles north of Port Washington waiting to exit at Belgium to begin a detour around freeway lanes closed for construction.

A semi-trailer truck, its driver oblivious to signs warning of lane closures and to clear views of the stationary cars, drove his 80,000-pound rig into the line of stopped vehicles, killing two people in separate cars and seriously injuring two others. 

A photo in Ozaukee Press showed the cars as compressed masses of mangled metal barely recognizable as motor vehicles.

Investigators determined that the 37-year-old driver from Missouri, who had been behind the wheel for many hours, made no effort to slow the truck—it crashed into cars at its maximum governed speed of 70 mph. 

Two years later, in 2011, the driver was sentenced to five years in prison for his negligence.

The accident was horrific, and tragic for several families, but it was not the least bit unusual. Every year, on highways all over the country, people are killed or maimed by semi-trucks crashing into vehicles stopped or slowed on highways. They are among the many victims of the growing number of highway crashes involving large trucks.

Deaths from truck-related crashes increased by 17% from 2009, the year of the Belgium crash, to 2013. During the same period, deaths in car crashes decreased 3%. 

In a single year—2013—deaths in truck crashes in the U.S. totalled 3,964. 

According to the National Traffic Safety Board, one in eight of all fatal road accidents and 25% of fatal crashes in work zones, involve trucks. The numbers become more impressive when measured against the fact that trucks account for less than 10% of the miles traveled on U.S. roads.

So what is being done to give the American public additional protection from the growing menace of trucks operating dangerously on highways? As things stand, less than nothing.

Efforts to weaken federal safety regulations for trucks have been started in both houses of Congress. One bill would increase the number of hours truckers are allowed to drive from 70 hours every eight days to 82 hours in a week. Another provision would allow truck companies to seek exemptions from federal rules governing the amount of rest drivers must get. (In the case of the Belgium crash, prosecutors said the truck driver had falsified his log to hide the number of hours he had gone without sleep.)

Another measure in Congress would forbid the U.S. Department of Transportation to publish safety ratings of trucking companies. And then there’s the one that proposes to lower the minimum age for interstate truck drivers from 21 to 18. 

There is also a move afoot to allow longer, heavier trucks.

It is no surprise that these attempts to weaken federal safety rules for truckers come at the behest of lobbyists doing the bidding of the trucking industry. They are finding a fertile environment for their solicitations in a Congress in which so many members have demonstrated contempt for federal regulations as needless inhibitions on the market.

It would be comforting to think the anti-regulation crowd learned something last week about the need for regulation and the folly of corporations being allowed to make their own rules concerning safety and the environment from the Volkswagen scandal in which the world’s largest automaker installed software to disguise the polluting emissions of its diesel vehicles. 

A sign of a waking-up Congress would be passage of a comprehensive highway funding bill that includes more stringent truck safety regulations instead of the watered down measures currently proposed 

Huge trucks in large numbers are a reality on our highways. They are an economic necessity—they transport more than two-thirds of all domestic freight—and they are inherently dangerous. The federal government owes its citizens effective regulations to counter the increasing highway carnage for which trucks are responsible.

Owners of Harry’s were like family to restaurant workers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 23 September 2015 20:19

To Ozaukee Press:

    Harry’s was not just some greasy spoon on a street corner; it was a place I called home for 10 years. Bertie and Dale Mahal hired me on after a quick interview followed by a meal, which they always insisted we get after our shift.

    At age 14 working for some extra pin money, my weekends were filled with everything that breakfast could be—the hustle and bustle of the early morning fishermen, the weekend warriors and finally the old-time regulars, who felt more like your eccentric uncle coming in to visit.  

    Harry’s was where I made lifetime friends, shared laughter all the time and busted my butt. There were some days when things got so crazy I didn’t know if I could handle it, but we always seemed to pull off our
shift. It was amazing to see how much of a well-oiled machine our staff could be, as most of us had been working together for years.     

    There were times when I would look over at the other cook, with tickets spread down the entire grill and customers lined to the door, and we would just smile, loving the challenge.  

    It has been four years since I worked there, but I still have dreams in which I am whipping out farm skillets like there’s no tomorrow.  

     Bertie and Dale were almost like a third pair of grandparents to me and my brother, who also worked there for a while. They put on parties for us. They not only cared about us, but for our families too and always asked how things were going. It was not surprising that they attended my grandmother’s funeral when she suddenly passed away.  

    They had a sense of community and Harry’s always did what it could to support local events, sometimes by handing out cookies.

    I still can’t believe we have to say goodbye to Harry’s. It is like that old friend that you can always count on until suddenly they are gone one day. I wish Bertie and Dale the best as I hope they will now finally retire and relax. Everyone knows they poured their hearts and souls into Harry’s for the last 25 years.

Brittany Quaas
Port Washington

Image information: On the last day of Harry’s Restaurant, owners Dale and Bertie Mahal served some cute customers—their granddaughters.
Photo by Sam Arendt

The council responds to an appeal PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 23 September 2015 20:14

No, not that appeal; the Port Washington Common Council is not giving 900 petition signers what they want, but it is (properly) granting the request of a single resident

Would you believe a little pig has cowed the Common Council?

    Believe it.

    The same Port Washington Common Council that with unwavering, implacable, rock-solid unanimity has refused the demands of hundreds of citizens to yield on its plan to sell public lakefront land for development has gone all open-minded and accommodating for a single resident asking for permission to keep a pig as a pet.

    To this, we say—hurray!

    Unlike its position in support of sacrificing lake views for a two-story building overlooking the marina, the council is on the right side of the pig-as-a-pet issue.

    Give the aldermen credit for setting aside common porcine perceptions and listening to the persuasive case Rebecca Casarez made for allowing her and other Port Washington residents to have Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs as pets.

    At last week’s council meeting, she described the diminutive though somewhat rotund animals as loving, caring pets. They are also known to be intelligent, quiet and, unlike their cousins that are destined to become bacon and pork chops, quite clean.

    What’s more, their behavior compares favorably with that of the animals that have always been allowed to be kept as pets in Port households. Pot-bellied pigs are gentle and unaggressive and unlikely to be involved in anything like the dog fights that have occasionally broken out among canines being paraded by owners at the farmers market. And in contrast to pet cats allowed to roam, they pose no threat to the songbird population.

    Aldermen were generous in their responses. Even Ald. Bill Driscoll, who is sometimes seen as the Dr. No of the council for his negative stances on such matters as spending for the senior center and city ownership of small neighborhood parks, offered a friendly yes to pot-bellied pigs.

    Driscoll is well informed about the pets thanks to a sister-in-law who owns two of them and, according to the alderman, considers them “as good or better than a dog.”

    Ald. Kevin Rudser made the sensible and fair suggestion to allow two pigs per home, just as two dogs and two cats are permitted. A pet pig, he said, “might like a friend.” (No, not that kind of friend; any ordinance allowing pigs will likely prohibit breeding.)

    The council went on to do the right thing and voted to instruct the city attorney to draft an ordinance allowing pet pot-bellied pigs.

    It was disappointing, however, that on this issue the council could not duplicate the seamless wall of unanimity it has displayed on every vote contrary to the wishes of citizens who have protested the sale of lakefront land for development.

    The single dissenter on the pig vote was Ald. Doug Biggs. Nothing against pet pigs, he said; he just thinks it would be “fiscally irresponsible” to spend the money needed to enact an ordinance at the request of a single citizen.

    The alderman’s fiscal watchfulness is commendable, but if a defacto ban on the right of citizens to own a certain type of pet is found to be an improper limit on their freedom, it should be removed regardless of the administrative expense. Chalk it up to the cost of good government.

    Pot-bellied pigs, of course, have nothing to do with selling public lakefront property, but the alderman’s point that the council is acting on the request of just one citizen has quite a bit to do with it.

    More than 900 citizens signed petitions requesting the council to refrain from selling public lakefront land for the proposed Blues Factory development and have not been able to get a single council vote in their favor.

    A good many of them will no doubt be watching to see if Ald. Biggs and his council colleagues apply the “fiscally irresponsible” test when they vote on the proposed $1 million taxpayer subsidy for the Blues Factory.

    In the meantime, it seems citizens who want Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs as pets, and the pigs themselves, are getting a fair shake.

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