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Bill to promote steel coil safety clears House panel

By M.J. Ellington (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Stiff fines and possible jail time could await steel coil transporters in Alabama who violate federal safety regulations when hauling rigs with thousands of pounds of coiled steel.

The House Public Safety Committee approved a bill Wednesday by a Birmingham Republican lawmaker that requires training for truckers, including independent operators, who drive big rigs loaded with steel coils.

Rep. Paul J. DeMarco's HB 541 also sets penalties ranging from $25 up to $10,000 and possible jail time for safety requirement violators.

Big rig accidents involving steel coil spills are on the radar screen of state public safety and transportation officials because of risk and road damage.

Lack of training, particularly among small, independent truckers, may be causing accidents, bill supporters say. Improperly anchored loads and speed are often cited in accident reports.

While trucking industry officials say the bill's fines are stiff, they say the safety aspects are worth the effort and they support the measure.

"As a motor carrier association, we're taking this on the chin," said Frank Filgo of the Alabama Trucking Association. "We know the driver is pretty much the captain of the ship. We support the bill."

Carrier education

He said the organization will stress motor carrier education as a way to bring truckers into compliance with safety rules.

The largest concentration of steel coil spills is in the Birmingham area, transportation and public safety officials say. But North Alabama has its share of coil accidents as well.

In January, an 18-wheeler on Alabama 20 near Hillsboro overturned and its 40,000-pound load of rolled steel broke loose, gouging pavement and the ground on its path toward Betty Collins' house. The load stopped a few feet from her home.

Capt. Harry Kearley, commander of the motor carrier safety unit for the Alabama Department of Public Safety, agreed that driver training on how to secure coils could help reduce the number of accidents.

"I have never seen a load jump off of the road going the speed limit," he also said.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

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