Debris from road construction truck costs driver $3,100
Traffic was slow on westbound Highway 55 at about 8 a.m. July 28. Mary Reuter of Hastings was in the line of cars trailing a dump truck causing the slowdown. She was about five cars behind it, and had been following it since she got onto the highway at Pleasant Street.
As the line neared Highway 52, Reuter noticed the cars in front of her start to swerve, avoiding something in the road. She didn't get to see it until the car directly in front of her dodged out of the way and the object, what she thought was a clump of asphalt and tar, was bouncing rapidly toward her car.
"I could see it bouncing, and it was coming really, really fast," she said.
Unable to avoid it, Reuter hit the melon-sized clump. It went underneath her car and left her with more than $3,100 in damage.
"It totally lifted my car up," she said.
There was no good place to pull off the road, and with 20 to 30 cars behind her, she tried to keep driving, until the car behind her pulled alongside and motioned her to pull over.
"When I stopped my car, the oil, probably from the tranny pan, was spilling all over," Reuter said.
The debris had taken its toll. It damaged her motor mounts, transmission, floor pan, and left axle.
A state patrol officer told her there was little he could do without a license plate number. Reuter was too far back from the truck and focused on her own vehicle after the incident to get the information.
"I couldn't get a license number or the name of the company," she said.
She said she hopes another driver was able to get the truck's license plate number or the name of the company so she and any other drivers whose vehicles were damaged by the flying debris know who to contact regarding the matter.
Her car was towed, and about an hour and a half after the incident, Reuter got a ride back to Hastings. Along the way, she saw two more vehicles stopped on the side of the road, one leaking fluid and the other with two flat tires. No one was with the vehicles.
In an attempt to find out who was responsible, Reuter called the City of Hastings, knowing there was work being done on Westview Drive at the time. The city referred her to the road construction contractor, Hardrives.
Reuter can't be sure Hardrives is responsible, but contacting the company is at least a place to start.
The contractor does have policies in place for its truck drivers, many of which are subcontractors, said Brian Knutson, Hardrive's safety director. Drivers are required by company policy and MnDOT to inspect their trucks and clean off loose debris before they leave the job site. If any debris is left on the truck where it might fall off while driving, the load is considered unsecured.
"We also tarp our loads," Knutson said.
Still, concerns regarding debris from trucks is something comes with the construction territory, and he offered advice for anyone whose vehicles are damaged due to an unsecured construction load.
"The best thing to do is stop immediately," he said, and call the police.
If the damage occurs near the job site, he suggesting finding and informing the foreman of the matter. But the key thing, he said, was to get a good description of the vehicle, including the color, type, direction of travel, time of day and the road name. A construction company can often identify a vehicle by that, Knutson said. Even if it's not associated with that company, sometimes they'll be able to figure out which company the truck does belong to.
However, the best information to get is the truck number, usually located on the side of the truck on the cab.
"That's the easiest way to track down who it is," Knutson said.
Reuter has talked to Knutson about the issue Knutson is working to find out which truck is responsible, but she's still frustrated by the fact that she's paying for a construction company's and driver's negligence.
"It just really angers me," she said.
Anyone who has more information for Reuter about the truck can contact Hastings Star Gazette staff writer Katrina Styx at 651-319-4501 or firstname.lastname@example.org.