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Fatal Oversight Sparks Caltrans Policy Review

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Caltrans is reviewing its procedures for routing oversized trucks in the wake of an oversight that apparently contributed to a fatal accident last week.

“We’re very concerned about the whole issue of public safety,” said Jim Drago, a Caltrans spokesman. “That’s our highest priority.”

Caltrans officials have declined to discuss in detail Friday’s accident, which occurred after a 15-foot truck on the Riverside Freeway drove under a 14-foot, 10-inch overpass. The truck’s cargo, a 7,000-pound tank, was knocked off and crushed a motorist driving behind the big rig.

California Highway Patrol Officer JoAnn O’Hair said the CHP’s investigation will probably take months but will not include a probe of Caltrans procedures.

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Trucking companies must get a Caltrans permit for any rig taller than 14 feet. State employees check proposed routes using maps and databases that list bridge heights and other considerations for large loads, Drago said. “Our goal is to make sure a square peg isn’t trying to fit into a round hole.”

Utah-based Statewide Transport, which operated the truck in Friday’s accident, had such a permit. The Caltrans employee who approved it apparently overlooked the discrepancy between the truck’s height and the vertical clearance of the La Palma Avenue overpass.

“We’re inventorying what happened in this particular case and looking at the way we do things, our procedure,” Drago said.

“Whenever you have human beings involved in anything, nothing is perfect. You try to be perfect, you try to do the best job you can, but there will always be human failings,” he said. “We will always strive to do the best job we can.”


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