Live 5 Investigation: Dump Truck Safety

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Traffic complaints about dump trucks are popping up on Facebook.

Just this week, a driver posted about a dump truck tailgating her on Highway 17.

Other people complain about dump trucks speeding.

We checked with the South Carolina Department of Public Safety and discovered that preliminary data shows, over the past five years, Charleston County leads the state in accidents involving dump trucks.

Berkeley County isn't far behind.

What's more, the number of accidents statewide is on the rise.  In the past few months, dump trucks overturned off Highway 41 in Berkeley County and in Awendaw. A June accident on James Island was deadly.

These trucks are regularly rolling on Lowcountry roads because we're growing.

Tina Floyd works at the RGW Dirt Pit in Berkeley County, where trucks dump soil, swapping one load for another that will be used to build neighborhoods.

The more houses that go up, she said, "The more dirt we carry out."

You'll find trucks in neighborhoods and on congested roads where people are already fed up with traffic.

"It's like playing Frogger coming in and out of our neighborhood on Clements Ferry Road," said Lisa Kerns with Clements Ferry Residents for Safer Roads.

People who live in neighborhoods along that road are worried about regular traffic.

"When you have a dump truck coming up and down the road at 45 miles per hour that's one thing," Kerns said, and another, if it's speeding, trying to meet
max loads. "Many of the dump trucks are paid by the load, and the more loads they carry, the more they get paid."

We checked with area trucking companies to see how drivers are paid.

A Summerville dump truck company said they pay by the hour for safety. But another company that pays by the load, has cameras and speed controls on their trucks.

Radar gun in hand, we checked for speed on three highways: Highway 61 in the morning, Clements Ferry Road at midday, and Highway 41 in the afternoon.

The dump trucks we tracked were at, or under the speed limit.

And, for a truck driver's perspective, we rode along with Blue Max, a company that pays drivers by the hour.

Willie Bailey was our driver, a man who has driven dump trucks for years.

His main concern is what he called "four wheelers on the road."

He said car drivers are often talking or texting.  Distracted drivers are a big worry.

Joe Reiring, a dump truck driver who made a stop at the RGW Dirt Pit, said he sees a lot of things going on in cars.

"Texting, driving, putting on make-up, you name it, whatever can be done in a car pretty much," he said he's observed.

Another dump truck driver, Robert Brown said he sees a lot of texting, and drivers who aren't paying attention to the fully loaded trucks.

Reiring added, "And these trucks don't stop on a dime."

Dump trucks weigh tons.

At a Ravenel dirt pit, we found that when a truck is loaded with four to five scoops of dirt, it will weigh between 6,200 and 6,800 pounds.

That's the weight of more than a dozen Ford Explorers combined, so it takes time and distance to stop.

"It takes about a football field length to stop a moving truck loaded," driver Brown explained.

If there is an accident, the South Carolina Trucking Association points out, most often it is not the truck driver's fault.

And, Association President Rick Todd said there is "no credible data" that can link "accident frequency or causation to driver pay models."

Both the truckers and Kerns believe all drivers must do their part.

"These trucks have to stop short because of drivers not paying attention or thinking they can get ahead of the next person in line, and it's going to cause an accident," Kerns exclaimed.

Todd said these trucks are an essential part of our economy, and he doesn't see drones d ropping d ropping dirt any time soon.

So, bottom line, both residents and truckers say all drivers need to learn to safely share the roads.

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