At — and out of — risk in Illinois

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Without a budget deal in Illinois between Democratic-majority lawmakers and the governor (Bruce Rauner) today, according to this Associated Press report from earlier in the week, a round $2 billion worth in ongoing road construction in the state could be halted.

Judging by the extent of resurfacing and other projects I saw Tuesday and Wednesday on I-74 between Moline and Bloomington-Normal, and on I-57 south of Champaign-Urbana to the I-24 interchange in the Southern part of the state, risk in this case could well be a good thing. Projects dot the map all across the state, in some cases tying up traffic, notes Landstar-leased owner-operator Gary Buchs.

Buchs at his eponymous TravelCenters of America location in Bloomington — he lives in nearby Colfax, Ill. Buchs was one of the drivers honored in TA’s Citizen Driver Awards program in 2015. Part of the recognition includes each winning driver’s selection of a TA or Petro location to be renamed in their honor.Buchs at his eponymous TravelCenters of America location in Bloomington — he lives in nearby Colfax, Ill. Buchs was one of the drivers honored in TA’s Citizen Driver Awards program in 2015. Part of the recognition includes each winning driver’s selection of a TA or Petro location to be renamed in their honor.

I was on a run with Buchs in his 2000 Freightliner Century from Ashland City, Tenn., to Moline, then back to Bloomington (more on that later) that, fortunately, did not result in any undue back-ups along the route. We took the Pennyrile Parkway path up through Kentucky to U.S. 41 through Evansville, Ind., further north to connect, via rural routes, with I-57 and 74, avoiding Northbound I-57 back-ups Buchs had seen in prior days around Mt. Vernon, Ill., among other spots.

What we did see: Plenty of orange-and-white barrels and periodic slow-downs. Not a big deal for us in the end, but the same can’t be said for many others in different spots around the state, I’m sure.

Potential upside of an Illinois budget deadlock? Maybe risk could be a good thing in this case — some of those barrels might go away for a time, eh? Though if the state can’t pay for the construction projects, who’s to say whether it’ll pay for the barrels’ removal…

If you run the area, keep tuned to news through the day for the final verdict on the state budget deal (reports late yesterday suggested Dems and the guv were close), and watch for slowdown alerts on your traffic apps and our Roads 511 Twitter feed aggregating state DOTs’ info services (at bottom).

Read ABC news of the tentative budget deal in Illinois at this link.

Speaking of risk, management of such is what drives Buchs’ business decisions in large part, whether we’re talking about time management, load choice or, as this picture illustrates, following distance. Landstar’s 2016-introduced “Drive for Five” safety initiative is aimed at increasing awareness of safe zones around the traveling truck, and Buchs has utilized this (very small) sticker on the interior of his windshield as a sort of “crosshairs,” he says, strategically placed just left of his line of sight to show on flat ground the mark on the road ahead 700 feet in front of his bumper. That happens to be his best estimate of the distance it takes to stop his truck at highway speed (he averages about 60 mph all told most trips), including his estimate of the inevitable delay in reaction time to a sudden stop up ahead. Buchs calls following distance the No. 1 factor in operators’ control on the roadway. His close management of it — well evident on the run yesterday — no doubt contributes to the million-plus safe miles he’s accrued over 13 years with Landstar. (Want to set up something similar on your windshield? Walk off the distance, mark it and scope it out back in the cab. This sticker is no bigger than a thumbnail, fyi.)Speaking of risk, management of such is what drives Buchs’ business decisions in large part, whether we’re talking about time management, load choice or, as this picture illustrates, following distance. Landstar’s 2016-introduced “Drive for Five” safety initiative is aimed at increasing awareness of safe zones around the traveling truck, and Buchs has utilized this (very small) sticker on the interior of his windshield as a sort of “crosshairs,” he says, strategically placed just left of his line of sight to show on flat ground the mark on the road ahead 700 feet in front of his bumper. That happens to be his best estimate of the distance it takes to stop his truck at highway speed (he averages about 60 mph all told most trips), including his estimate of the inevitable delay in reaction time to a sudden stop up ahead. Buchs calls following distance the No. 1 factor in operators’ control on the roadway. His close management of it — well evident on the run yesterday — no doubt contributes to the million-plus safe miles he’s accrued over 13 years with Landstar. (Want to set up something similar on your windshield? Walk off the distance, mark it and scope it out back in the cab. This sticker is no bigger than a thumbnail, fyi.)
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