50 tickets issued to drivers in last 3 weeks
The construction of hurricane protection levees inside and outside of the parish has led to a dramatic increase of dump trucks traveling through the area. But while the trucks are a sign of progress, many of their drivers have violated the law, according to Sheriff Greg Champagne.
In the last three weeks, deputies have written 50 tickets to truck drivers for violations such as overloaded trucks, speeding, and running red lights and stop signs. Champagne said that he receives both telephone calls and emails from residents every day concerning the traffic safety on the highways. Most of the complaints involve the dump trucks running red lights and pulling out into the highways in front of other motorists.
The Sheriff’s Office is cracking down by monitoring intersections with both marked and unmarked units and deputies have even gone to the dirt pits and read drivers the “riot act,” Champagne said.
“On multiple occasions, deputies and supervisors with our traffic division have personally spoken to as many drivers as we could to advise them of the complaints and to warn them that we would be closely monitoring their activities and issuing citations,” he said. “We also set up checkpoints on each side of the river and we were pulling the truckers over and advising them about traffic safety.”
Councilman Dennis Nuss said that he has also received a few complaints about the high volume of dump trucks on Highway 90 and that it appears a number of them are speeding while others have trouble slowing down or stopping for the red lights.
“I do think the Sheriff’s Office is doing a good job dealing with those who choose to break the law though,” he said. “We all must be more vigilant during this time of heightened activity – it is important work and I believe the progress is a good thing for our parish.”
According to Champagne, the truckers seem to get paid by the load, which gives them the incentive to cut corners by speeding.
“While deputies cannot be at every intersection to catch every violation in the act, we are working diligently and have our entire traffic division assigned to this enforcement every day,” he said.
Champagne did add that when truck drivers are pulled over, a large majority of them have all the necessary paperwork, registrations and insurance.
“The Corps of Engineers or its contractors basically sees to that before they are even allowed to haul,” he said.
While the trucks have caused traffic problems, the activity does appear to provide a slight economic boost to the area.
“There is no hard data, but some of the contractors are staying in local hotels, which would likely mean that they eat at least one meal a day in the parish,” Corey Faucheux, the economic development director of St. Charles Parish, said. “Some of the dirt being used is also coming from a private landowner in Killona, which means that sales taxes are paid for its use.”
While some drivers are staying in local hotels, such as the Best Western in Luling, Faucheux said that local hotel occupancy has actually dropped recently.
“That’s probably because BP-related activities are winding down,” he said.
Judy Courville, the manager of Best Western, said that some truck drivers are staying at the hotel, but nowhere near the number of workers that stayed for the BP cleanup efforts.
“It’s not even close,” she said.
Faucheux also added that while some money is coming into the parish because of the levee work, it’s difficult to say how much the activity will end up costing the parish.
“When you estimate the economic impact, you have to estimate the costs associated with performing the economic activity as well as the revenues,” he said. “ For example, what is the cost of the wear and tear on the roads and what other cost could be associated with this?
“I know one thing, any fatality resulting from an accident is immeasurable.”
Earlier this month, a couple from Kansas was killed when a dump truck’s left front tire blew out and sent it into the path of their vehicle.
The truck driver also died as a result of the accident.