Missouri urges truckers to bypass Joplin

Jill Dunn | May 24, 2011

Missouri is asking truckers to not exit Interstate 44 in Joplin, except for exit 4’s fueling plazas, but state officials are expediting trucking permits and waiving fees following the city’s deadly tornado.

The Missouri Department of Transportation issued an update Tuesday, May 24, after the May 22 tornado that resulted in 125 fatalities in Joplin. Fuel is not available at I-44 exit 11 and other truck services are unavailable in the Joplin area.

MDOT said certain trucking permits will be issued free and requests will receive priority service around the clock. Carriers entering the area with heavier, wider or longer than normally allowed must request an oversize/overweight permit. Out-of-state carriers that do not hold authority to operate in Missouri can request registration and fuel permits.

Affected truckers should call (800) 877-8499 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Truckers needing emergency permits may call (573) 291-4853 or (573) 291-4517 after these hours.

The expedited service and fee waiver ends at noon May 30.

Many Joplin roads are impassable because of debris, MDOT stated. Emergency response vehicles need reduced traffic on area roads to clear and offer assistance.

Roads in an area north of I-44 are limited to emergency traffic. Law enforcement will ticket drivers who enter this area, which includes sections of Business U.S. 71 and Loop 44.

The area parameters are SR 66 to the north, SR 249 to the east, SR FF/32nd Street to the south and Central City Road to the west. Visit the MoDOT Traveler Information Map – http://www.modot.org/ – and click on the Joplin to see the restricted area boundaries.

Flying J spokesman Jay Stinnett said the Joplin Flying J took a direct hit from the tornado and is closed until repairs can be made, which will be at least two months. Reconstruction will include replacing destroyed fuel pumps and the roof. Employees escaped injury, he added.

The Joplin Pilot had minor damage but is processing transactions. Alternate I-44 company locations are the Flying J in Sullivan, Mo., and Oklahoma City, or Pilot truck stops in Pacific and St. Robert, Mo.

Joel Hamilton, Joplin 44 Petro general manager, said his Petro was undamaged and no Petro employees were injured. “The city, which took the direct hit, is still in a state of search and rescue,” he said. “The reality of it has begun to sink in.”

Regan Stephans, vice-president of Transport Distribution Co., said power returned May 24 to the Joplin-based company. Joplin trucking companies are generally located outside the path the tornado took. One TDC loaded tractor-trailer arrived in Joplin from Oklahoma on I-44 during the tornado. The driver stopped his truck, but the tornado flipped it over. Although the truck and trailer had damage, the driver was uninjured.

Don Schaefer, president of the Mid-West Truckers Association, said carriers have been extremely busy hauling electrical supplies from factories to Joplin. Tom Crawford, Missouri Trucking Association president, said Joplin carriers had wind damage, but most had fared well.

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