Port of Baltimore reopening timeline proposed

Trucking news and briefs for Monday, April 8, 2024:

Main channel to Port of Baltimore expected to reopen by end of May

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore bridge collapseUSACE Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon views damage of the fallen Francis Scott Key Bridge that collapsed in Baltimore.U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Maj. Spencer Garrison

The channel leading to and from the Port of Baltimore that’s been blocked since the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed when it was struck by a large container ship now has a tentative timeline for reopening.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Baltimore District is working with local, state and federal partners to clear the wreckage along the Fort McHenry Channel and has announced it expects to open a temporary, limited-access channel by the end of April, with the goal of reopening the permanent channel by the end of May.  

“Thanks to the exhaustive work of the Unified Command during the last two weeks, including underwater surveys and detailed structural analysis of the wreckage, we’ve developed a better understanding of the immense and complex work that lies ahead,” said Lt. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, USACE commanding general. “A fully opened federal channel remains our primary goal, and we will carry out this work with care and precision, with safety as our chief priority.” 

[Related: Baltimore bridge collapse prompts changes to city's truck routes]

After detailed studies and engineering assessments by local, state and federal organizations, in collaboration with industry partners, USACE said the temporary channel will be 280 feet wide and 35 feet deep. This channel would support one-way traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore for barge container service and some roll-on/roll-off vessels that move automobiles and farm equipment to and from the port.

USACE engineers are aiming to reopen the permanent, 700-foot-wide by 50-foot-deep federal navigation channel by the end of May, restoring port access to normal capacity.

“These are ambitious timelines that may still be impacted by significant adverse weather conditions or changes in the complexity of the wreckage,” Spellmon added. “We are working quickly and safely to clear the channel and restore full service at this port that is so vital to the nation. At the same time, we continue to keep faith with the families of the missing and are working with our partners to help locate and recover their loved ones.”

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[Related: Baltimore bridge collapse: Emergency HOS waiver issued in Maryland, SBA loans available]

HOS, other regs waived for certain New Hampshire haulers

The New Hampshire Department of Safety has issued a declaration of emergency notice due to “emergency conditions as a result of the recent snow storms and below average cold temperatures.”

The notice states that an “emergency exists pertaining to the delivery of propane, natural gas, fuel oil, gasoline and foodstuffs, and the repair of utility outages” in the state.

As a result, the state is granting temporary relief from 49 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 390-397, and a temporary waiver of International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) and International Registration Plan (IRP) requirements.

The declaration will be in effect through April 15. Drivers who utilize the waiver can come back into compliance and restart their hours-of-service clock after taking a 34-hour off-duty period at the end of their extended hours period.

Nearly 800 more Kenworth, Peterbilt trucks recalled over steering gear issue

Paccar is recalling approximately 782 more trucks that are potentially affected by a steering gear issue that could lead to a loss of steering control, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents.

Previously, more than 47,000 model year 2024 and 2025 Paccar trucks were recalled because the installed R.H. Sheppard steering gears have a sector shaft that may not meet hardness requirements for the gear teeth, which can cause the gear teeth to crack or fracture.

In the latest recall, Paccar said the affected trucks had steering gears installed (either on the production line or offline) while suspect steering gears were at the plants, which weren’t inspected during “the containment sweep.”

Affected truck models include model year 2025 Peterbilt 536, 548, 567 and 579 models, along with 2025 Kenworth T280, T380, T480, T680, T880 and W990 trucks.

Dealers will inspect the serial numbers, and replace the steering gears as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed May 26. Owners can contact Kenworth customer service at 1-425-828-5888 with recall number 24KWF and Peterbilt customer service at 1-940-591-4220 with recall number 24PBF. NHTSA’s recall number is 24V-233.

[Related: Steering issue prompts big Kenworth, Peterbilt recall: More than 47K trucks]

Driver honored for stopping to help at crash scene

Rodney Clay, a truck driver based out of Riverview, Florida, has been named a Highway Angel by the Truckload Carriers Association for stopping to help a mother and daughter when their car flipped on a busy highway and crashed into the road median. Clay works for Norton Transport out of Ringgold, Georgia. 

Rodney ClayRodney ClayOn March 4 at 1:30 p.m., Clay was traveling on I-435 in Lawrence, Kansas, and saw an accident occur about a quarter mile in front of him. 

“I saw a car practically in the air, flipping. Nobody was stopping,” Clay said. “So I pulled over about 100 yards in front of the car off the interstate. I ran towards the car and saw it smoking and fluid leaking.” 

The car, which flipped, hit the ground, slid to the fast lane wall, and crashed into the wall, was severely damaged. A 30-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Clay got to the car and all airbags were deployed. He lifted the passenger side airbag, afraid of what I was going to see.

As he lifted it, a young girl was inside the vehicle screaming and shaking. The driver, a middle-aged woman, was bleeding from her mouth. Knowing he needed more help, Clay stood in the way of traffic and stopped another tanker truck. The driver got out to assist.  

“I told the women, ‘You have to get out of this car now -- it’s smoking really bad,’” Clay said. “I was afraid it was going to blow up.” 

He said the young lady said she couldn’t feel her hips. Clay and the other trucker pulled her out of the vehicle, then rescued the other woman as well, moving them far away from the smoking vehicle. 

The young lady tried to call her dad on Clay’s phone, but there was no answer. Soon, paramedics arrived and Clay left the scene. Later, he ended up texting the father of the young lady, informing him what happened. The man was grateful for the message. Later that day the father called Clay to thank him for helping his family. 

Clay explained why he stopped to help. As the father of six, he thinks about paying it forward. 

“If it happened to any of my kids, I’d want somebody to stop,” he said. 

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