Long, Bumpy Road

| December 12, 2008

Archie Landis of Hartford, Ala., an independent owner-operator who has been driving for 26 years, voted for I-40 through Arkansas as being the most improved road. “We used to not get any sleep going through there, the way the roads were messed up,” he says. “And if everything wasn’t locked down, then it ended up on the floor.”

Another state frequently near the top of the Worst Roads category of the Highway Report Card is Louisiana, so it’s not surprising that the state ranked second this year.

“Louisiana roads are just rough,” says Dean Connot of Blossom, Texas, who has been driving for 10 years. “But they build wonderful bridges in Louisiana. Why can’t they build a road?”

Louisiana spends roughly $250 million preserving its roads and about $125 million on adding lanes and new bridges, says Tracy Horne, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development public information officer. “There is a tremendous amount of truck traffic through the state, so when you have that kind of traffic, it does tremendous damage,” she says. “We’re always doing construction along the main roads. People want added capacity and better roads, but they don’t want the inconvenience.” All that money has paid off a little: I-10 through Louisiana was voted fifth Most Improved.
“Louisiana is getting better, but even in the hammer lane, you’ll get bumped out of the bed while the driver hangs on to the steering wheel,” say Pam and Cliff Dancy of Deer Lodge, Mont., who haul reefer loads across 48 states.

One highway hazard that is not getting better is road rage. Almost 60 percent of respondents think road rage has increased in the past year. And another 27 percent of truckers last year said they believe it’s as bad as it was in 2002.

“I’ve seen so many wrecks and people cutting each other off. People flip me off because I’m in their way,” Landis says. “I’ve seen cars fight for the same piece of highway. There’s no courtesy left out there anymore.”

Connot is one of those who’s convinced the problem has worsened. “You make someone mad just by changing lanes. You don’t have to do anything to earn it,” he says. “If you leave enough following space, someone just has to squeeze in there. Everybody’s in too big a hurry. It’s plain discourteousness.”

Road rage is a daily occurrence, says Randy Estes of Beattyville, Ky., a steel hauler who has been driving for about 16 years. “People cut you off,” he says. “People are in too big of a hurry.”

And where is the highest concentration of bad four-wheelers? Readers say California – though a smaller percentage also rank the state as fourth for the best four-wheelers.

“California car drivers don’t like big trucks,” say the Dancys, who are leased to Jim Palmer Trucking. “They don’t understand. It’s the road rage capital of the world. We realize there are a lot of cars, but the enforcement should lay off the trucks; trucks are usually going within 5 mph of the speed limit, but cars are guaranteed to be doing 10 or 20 mph above.”

Other respondents agree about the enforcement; California again topped the list of states with the toughest inspections and law enforcement. “In California, the inspections are just plain ridiculous,” Connot says.

The state also made it onto the top five for Worst Roads, Least Available Overnight Parking and Worst Truck Stops.

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