The article on Page A3 of the Feb. 7 Herald-Leader was only two paragraphs long and seemingly insignificant: A tanker truck tipped over in the Robinson Creek area of Pike County, spilled some material, and people were evacuated. No one was injured.
But what was a truck loaded with fuel and ammonium nitrate blasting agent doing on a narrow road (KY 3415) in rural Eastern Kentucky?
Kentucky uses on average at least 2 million pounds of explosives every day, according to the Institute of Explosive Makers. That's the third-highest usage in the nation, behind Wyoming and West Virginia.
In 2008, Kentucky used 388,000 metric tons of explosives — 100 times as much as Louisiana.
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Most Americans first heard about ANFO — ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil — as an explosive material following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Timothy McVeigh used about 5,000 lbs. of it to destroy the 11-story Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people.
Do the math: If Kentucky uses 2 million pounds of explosives per day, then the equivalent of 400 Oklahoma City bombs are going off every single day in our state. Coal companies use ANFO for blasting in mountaintop removal coal mining. It's also used in highway construction.
After reading about the truck accident, I went to the Web site of the Institute of Makers of Explosives (www.ime.org) to learn about the regulations on transportation of explosives.
The Department of Transportation regulates the transport, and the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Safety Administration does security and background checks on transportation workers.
But why aren't there better safety regulations on trucks carrying explosives? I have seen tanker trucks with placards reading "Explosives" zooming down Interstate 75 at 70 mph. There are no police or special escort vehicles, nor yellow flashing lights on these trucks.
Trucks carrying hazardous chemicals and natural gas are not required to drive at safer, slower speeds than trucks carrying Hostess Twinkies. Why not?
On the IME Web site, I noticed a logo for IMEPAC. "The principal goal of the Institute of Makers of Explosives Political Action Committee is to make the interests and concerns of the commercial explosives industry known to members of Congress. The proceeds are used to provide financial support to worthy candidates for federal office."
I also visited the Web site of the Truck Safety Coalition, which is a partnership between Parents Against Tired Truckers and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways. At www.trucksafety.org I read about HR 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, which formerly contained an amendment that would permit states to increase weight limits for trucks on federal roads from the current 80,000 lbs to 97,000 lbs.
Worst of all, it would permit triple trailers — big trucks pulling three trailers.
In the name of "less government" and "less regulation," trucking industry lobbyists are attempting to pass laws that will endanger Kentucky families who use our public roads.
The current number of trucks on Interstates 65 and 75 is intolerable. Truckers rule the road and force everyone else to drive as fast as they do.
Many truck drivers are under tremendous pressure from their corporate bosses; they are tired and stressed out from long hours behind the wheel.
I cannot imagine how any reasonable person could think that triple trailers are safe. But this amendment is not about public safety — it's about profit. Bigger, longer trucks mean the trucking companies can haul the same overall tonnage and employ fewer drivers.
Fortunately, the dangerous amendment to HR 7 was removed. But clearly we don't need less regulation of the trucking industry, we need more. Look at the Robinson Creek accident.
We need tougher police enforcement on big trucks, longer rest hours for truck drivers and less trucking industry influence on our representatives in Congress.