Speed, weather, inexperienced drivers cause rash of tractor trailer rollovers at bend on Route 67

Photo Caption: Firefighters at the scene of a tractor-trailer rollover at Route 67 and Morrow Road Tuesday. Credit: Hagaman Volunteer Fire Department

TOWN OF AMSTERDAM — A recent spate of rollover tractor trailer crashes on Route 67 at Morrow Road have commonly involved speed, weather-related road conditions and inexperienced drivers, according to Montgomery County Sheriff Jeffery Smith.

“All of them have been rollovers and all of them have been identical,” Smith said Wednesday.

Since the beginning of the year, three tractor trailers have rolled over at the sharp bend on Route 67 at Morrow Road. No other vehicles were involved in the accidents.

The most recent incident occurred on Tuesday around 8:15 pm No injuries related to the crash were reported.

“Unfortunately, the driver was driving too fast to manage the corner, got off the side of the road and flipped over on it’s side,” Smith said.

Speeding tickets were issued to drivers in all three crashes. One driver was additionally ticketed for failure to keep right and moving from a lane unsafely. The driver in the most recent incident was also ticketed for disobeying a traffic control device.

Tuesday’s incident was the only one that seemingly did not involve winter-related road conditions, but Smith noted that warmer temperatures during the day can melt snow and lead to icy patches when freezing temperatures set back in at night.

“Speed, winter weather and inexperienced drivers; those three things are the direct result of the last three incidents,” Smith said.

Although the section of road has long been a trouble spot, crashes have recently happened there more frequently, according to David Overbaugh, assistant chief at the Hagaman Volunteer Fire Department.

“This has been an ongoing issue for a number of years, but lately it’s been more prevalent than it has been in the past,” Overbaugh said. “It’s a very sharp corner; that section of highway is 55 miles per hour. For a tractor trailer not familiar with the area, that can sneak up on you. Especially at night time.”

Volunteer firefighters from Hagaman have responded to each of the crashes and are normally joined by volunteers from the Cranesville Fire Department providing mutual aid. Overbaugh said crews from Cranesville were held in quarters after Tuesday’s crash when their assistance was not required.

Each of the rollover tractor trailer crashes have involved drivers from out of the area, at least two from out of state, Overbaugh said.

“That Route 67 stretch is a popular truck route,” Overbaugh said. “They are definitely not familiar with that stretch of road.”

Safety concerns

Although no other vehicles have been involved in the recent tractor trailer crashes, Overbaugh said one of the truck drivers earlier this year had to be airlifted to Albany Medical Center due to the injuries they sustained. The extent of the individual’s injuries and current condition were not immediately known.

Overbaugh is concerned that more crashes involving serious injuries could occur along the stretch of road if action isn’t taken. He suggested signs with flashing lights could better alert drivers approaching the bend in the road and streetlights at the intersection could improve visibility of the sharp curve.

Smith said his office has contacted the state Department of Transportation to determine whether appropriate signage is in place ahead of the intersection.

“That corner has been there forever, obviously, and many trucks drive through there safely, but they are assessing to see if there are changes necessary,” Smith said.

Although department staff regularly provide traffic enforcement throughout the county, Smith said there are currently no plans to post deputies at the intersection.

“It’s extremely hit and miss. You could post someone there and not have a problem for a week, so it’s difficult,” Smith said.

With the recurrence of problems, Smith reminded all motorists, especially new truck drivers, to stay alert while behind the wheel.

“Unilaterally, we want them to pay attention,” Smith said. “If you monitor your speed, pay attention to signs and be aware of your surroundings, you should be able to travel through that intersection without any trouble whatsoever.”

New training requirement for CDL drivers

New federal regulations requiring entry-level driver training before first-timers apply for commercial drivers licenses that took effect Monday could help curb future issues with inexperienced tractor trailer drivers.

In the past, individuals who passed the written-permit test were able to schedule road tests for their CDL without any practical training. That meant drivers without any knowledge or experience could take a chance at obtaining a commercial license and potentially pass, according to Andrea Hanley, executive vice president of The CDL School.

New regulations will require anyone seeking their CDL to complete training with approved providers through a federal training provider registry before scheduling a road test.

Hanley said providers must certify drivers receive classroom education in such topics as accident prevention, trip planning, hours of service, hazardous material endorsements, weight balancing and pre-trip inspection.

Additionally, Hanley said prospective CDL holders are put behind the wheel with instructors to master driving and backing up and parking maneuvers. No minimum driving hours are required, but approved providers must certify applicants learn the required skills and curriculum before taking road tests.

“In my opinion, this registry is going to completely revolutionize how CDL training is delivered,” Hanley said. “This will definitely encourage safer drivers.”

While training provided through The CDL School already meets federal standards, Hanley acknowledged that businesses providing in-house CDL training to new hires will face challenges to potentially become approved providers if they plan to continue.

“Ultimately, this is a good change, but like with anything new or different, there is going to be a learning curve and I share a lot of those concerns with private companies and private training providers,” Hanley said.

Although the change could further impact ongoing driving shortages, Hanley said the timing makes sense when increasing numbers of first-time drivers are seeking CDLs. Changing consumer demands during the pandemic coupled with retirement-age drivers leaving the workforce are currently contributing to the huge demand for new drivers.

“Because of the pandemic, the general public has developed an appreciation of transportation workers and more people are aware of the benefits a CDL driver can have, the excellent pay they can start with, as well as career options that are available to them within the first six months of becoming a driver,” Hanley said. “We are at full capacity nationwide at all of our schools and are seeing all types of people considering truck driving as a career.”

Providing comprehensive training is essential to ensure the influx of new commercial drivers on the road traveling safely, Hanley indicated.

“By having these standards, it sets the stage to have credible training providers like us in the registry so we can assure that we are training according to these standards and providing quality training producing safer drivers,” Hanley said. “It’s there to have safer drivers out on the road, which is a good thing.”

Reach Ashley Onyon at aonyon@dailygazette.net or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

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