[Vision2020] Megaload incident in Montana

Ellen Roskovich gussie443 at hotmail.com
Fri Sep 2 12:49:14 PDT 2011

... this is an eye opening article about the danger of oversized
loads, and the denial games the companies involved in the shipments
can play.
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Motor home has close call with oversize load on Highway 200
Eldon Dreyer knew what was coming. He just didn't think it was coming so fast.
Dreyer was driving his motor home west last week down a rolling
stretch of Highway 200 east of Ovando, with his wife Shari and their
three dogs as passengers.
>From the other direction a pilot truck came, amber lights flashing and
a hand waving a red flag out the driver's window. He thought he got
the message.
"OK, I know there's a big load coming," Dreyer, 75, said a day later.
He figures the next truck, flashing and warning the same way, was
about 500 yards behind.
"These guys were driving 50 or 60 miles an hour, going like a bat out
of hell," Dreyer said.
He slowed to 40 mph just before the highway entered the east approach
to Sperry Grade, where it climbs a small finger ridge and bends back
down to the Blackfoot River bottom.
"By that time I'm into the curve, guardrails on both sides of me.
Nobody told me to stop. And here that sucker comes," he said.
Ryash Transport Inc. of Leduc, Alberta, was transporting one of
several loads of steel formations from Washington to Alberta for Krupp
Canada of Calgary. A Ryash semitractor was towing a 115,000-pound,
14-foot-high load, with what Dreyer described as "a big metal piece
that jutted out."
The jut spread above the highway 23 feet, 8 inches, according to the
trip permit provided by the Montana Department of Transportation.
Dreyer later paced it off and estimated the highway at that point at
32 feet wide, guardrail to guardrail. His motor home, counting large
sideview mirrors, is about 9 feet wide.
"I got over as far as I could, and of course I didn't want to tear my
motor home up on the guardrail either," said Dreyer, who's from
Riverside, Calif. "And he caught us."
The Ryash load clipped the driver's side mirror off. The large mirror
smashed into the side window, breaking an outer pane of glass but not
the inner. Shards cracked the windshield of a trailing Chevrolet
Suburban and left what its driver, J.C. Ellender of Choteau, described
as "a big pineapple."
Remarkably, no one was hurt.
"We were blessed," Dreyer said. "Twelve inches more and he would have
totally wiped out my motor home. He probably would have wiped out me."
The motor home and Suburban quickly found a wide spot to pull over and breathe.
Dreyer said he considered unhitching the car he'd been towing and
giving chase to the big rig. "But I decided, what would that prove?
And at about that time I looked up the road and here came flashing
A woman driving the trailing escort truck for Ryash had witnessed the
incident. She came back to take stock, and was later joined by the
unidentified driver of the big rig and another pilot vehicle driver
who'd apparently stopped at the closest pulloff point.
They gave the Dreyers and Ellender contact information for Ryash
Transport and waited for the Montana Highway Patrol to show up.
Ellender had a doctor's appointment in Missoula and didn't stick
around. He said his windshield had been cracked anyway, so he planned
on replacing it on his own dime.
Dreyer said a Montana Highway Patrol trooper eventually did show up to
investigate. The upshot, he said, was that the big rig driver didn't
receive a ticket.
Ryash's permit with the transportation department restricted its speed
to 55 mph, and didn't call for traffic stoppages.
"The problem is, by the time you see it, you don't have enough time to
react at 55," Dreyer said. "At 35 you have time to put on your brakes,
pull way over, do something"
Ellender called Ryash Transport in Canada and spoke with owner Michael
"His reaction was that the motor home was entirely in the wrong, that
(Dreyer) had blown through three escort vehicles and that was what put
him in harm's way," said Ellender. "But the escort vehicles, in my
estimation, were doing a little less than exemplary job, just being in
front of him with blinking lights and traveling probably 60 or 70
miles an hour."
Contacted on Wednesday at his headquarters in Leduc, near Edmonton,
Hutchings said he didn't have the police report, but didn't think his
driver was to blame.
"As far as we know, it's no fault of ours," he said.
According to the MDT permit, the load entered Montana from Idaho on
Interstate 90 at Lookout Pass. It left the interstate at St. Regis,
presumably to avoid construction projects in Mineral County, and
traveled on Highways 35 and 200 to Ravalli, Highway 93 back to I-90
west of Missoula, and jumped back on 200 at Bonner.
Asked why his company didn't haul the loads on I-90 and then I-15 at
Butte, as many of Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil's more famous megaloads of
oil sands processing equipment are now doing, Hutchings replied,
"You'll have to talk to (the Department of Transportation). They
decide the final routing, we don't. It's got to do with their
construction zones."
Duane Williams, who heads MDT's Motor Carrier Services, said the
transport companies pick the route they want to go on when they submit
an application for a 32-J (oversized load) permit.
"If there's construction, or if we know of any obstacles, we work with
them on that," he said.
Williams said the permit restricted the speed of the Ryash load to 55
mph, and didn't call for night-time travel or stoppages of oncoming
Hutchings guessed that the load the Dreyers encountered was one of
half a dozen that Ryash has already transported through Montana on the
"I don't know what we've got left down there. Three or four, maybe," he said.
Lori Ryan of the Montana Department of Transportation said three Ryash
loads were due to leave the chain-up area near Mullan, Idaho, at 6
p.m. MDT on Wednesday. Construction at the top of Lookout Pass on the
Montana side requires a pilot-car escort of oversized vehicles
starting at 6:30 a.m.
Permits are good for five days once they're issued. If there were no
complications, Ryash could have reached Alberta by Wednesday night.
The Dreyers were traveling to visit relatives in Missoula from Minot,
N.D., where they volunteered to help clean up after devastating floods
earlier in the summer. They plan to stay for another week or so in
Missoula, but Eldon Dreyer said he's encountered a problem.
It's going to take four weeks to receive a new sideview mirror for his
motor home from the factory. He said Wednesday he was trying to figure
out how to jury-rig a mirror on so he and Shari can drive home to
"I sure think it would be a good idea to let people know this is going
on," Dreyer said. "If you see somebody leaning out a window waving a
flag, be very careful. You'd better get off the road and stop, by all
Copyright 2011 missoulian.com. All rights reserved.
Posted in Local on Thursday, September 1, 2011 6:15 am Updated: 7:54
am. | Tags: Oversized Loads, Montana Department Of Transportation,
Highway 200, Ovando, Sperry Grade, Ryash Transport Inc., Motor Home,
Read more: http://missoulian.com/news/local/article_a11cb2e2-d44b-11e0-b6d4-001cc4c002e0.html#ixzz1WlL1XTsF
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