[div class=’content-2-col’]UPDATE, MARCH 2004: SWIFT TAKES STEPS TO STOP THEIR TRUCKS FROM USING THE DRAGON
We received the following E-mail from SWIFT: Swift Transportation has made every effort to eliminate unauthorized truck traffic in your area. This includes changes in our computer system to eliminate any electronic routing errors that would inadvertently send a driver on a restricted route. Occasionally a driver will ignore a specified route and try to take shortcuts. Therefore, in spite of our efforts, there is still the potential for a driver to stray into restricted areas. In that event, when the driver is identified, a complete Driver Performance review is conducted and actions are taken to change the behavior of the driver. This includes action up to and including termination of employment. We would appreciate notification any time one of our trucks is noticed on a restricted route. All we need is a truck number or trailer number and we can handle it from there. We use satellite tracking technology to verify unit movement to document the unit’s route. Professional Drivers and Motor Carriers are interested in working with the motoring public as much as is practical to eliminate fatalities, injuries, and damages resulting from accidents and incidents involving Commercial Motor Vehicles. Jim Wright Driver Safety Review Auditor Swift Transportation, Inc. P.O. Box 29243, Phoenix, AZ 85038 telephone Larry Barons (800) 347-1656 in the Safety Department.
THE FOLLOWING INCIDENTS ARE WHAT LED TO SWIFT’S DECISION TO ALERT ITS DRIVERS:
Here is proof that trucks can not negotiate the corners safely on the Dragon. This railing has been repeatedly run over by rear trailer tires in this corner at mile 4 near the picnic tables.
SUNDAY AUGUST 12, 2001: Just when you think you’ve seen it all, at 12:40 pm out of the pouring rain appeared the dreaded SWIFT TRUCK. It was only a few minutes later that two riders trailering their bikes back to Chicago stopped to tell us that the truck had run them off the road. We dedicate these photos to those Chicago riders.
A while later another rider reported the SWIFT TRUCK was hanging precipitously over the edge of a bank at the curve at mile 7 near Parsons Branch Road. We responded SEE PHOTOS. We spoke to the truck driver who had TWO WEEKS experience on the roads with this 53 foot trailer. He told us that SWIFT Dispatch had told him to transport his load of liquid soap from Maryville TN to Blairsville GA. He decided to take US129. Why does SWIFT, who repeatedly tells us that US129 is restricted, allow their rookie drivers to come this way? Where are their bulletins going? Seems they need to review their warning system. Perhaps after they get the bill from the Tennessee towing company they will try to correct this costly error. It appears that personal injury and damage means nothing to them if it’s someone else. This accident took more than 5 hours to clear, interfering with traffic for most of the afternoon. During the wrecker operation, traffic was backed for as far as you can see in each direction. There is also damage to the road from both the wrecker and the SWIFT truck.
SATURDAY AUGUST 04, 2001: WHAT IS IT WITH SWIFT? We met a SWIFT truck on the Dragon at 10:00 am and arrived at the Overlook to learn that the truck had side swiped a car a few minutes earlier and then left the scene of the accident. Luckily there were no injuries, but there was several thousand dollars damage to the car. Does someone have to die before SWIFT stops this madness?
SATURDAY JULY 28, 2001: A Swift truck came through at 10 am on Saturday and caused one Miata to go off the road. The truck did not stop. TRUCK NUMBER 12553 SWIFT contact information: Swift Transportation, Inc. P.O. Box 29243, Phoenix, AZ 85038, telephone Larry Barons (800) 347-1656 in the Safety Department. CALL AND COMPLAIN, THIS DRIVER IS VIOLATING COMPANY POLICY.
SUNDAY JUNE 3, 2001: Swift truck 87120 came through at 2:45 pm in the rain and forced two HDs off the road, almost running one over. Two CBR600s were run into a ditch as well. One of them was riding two up and the passenger fell off of the bike and into a ditch. A BMW was also run off the road. All of these cycles were going very slow because of the rain. The Swift truck never stopped for any of these accidents. Thanks to Scott Taylor of Columbus, Ohio for these details. We have been told by Swift that this section of US129 is restricted to their drivers, yet another Swift truck snuck over the Dragon in the darkness on Saturday morning the 9th at 12:30 am. Call Swift and tell them we are watching. We will report every truck we see violating their safety policy.
JUNE 5, 2001: THE DAILY TIMES NEWSPAPER
TRACTOR-TRAILER MAKES WRONG TURN, ENDS UP IN CADES COVE by Thomas Fraser, Times Daily Staff
A wayward tractor-trailer blocked traffic in Cades Cove for five hours Saturday after the driver got stuck on Loop Road.
Rangers, a wrecker crew, maintenance workers and volunteers all scrambled to free and reroute the 53-foot truck – carrying 27,000 pounds of tires – after its axles stuck on a curve down from Sparks Lane.
Two hundred cars had to be turned around and directed out of the cove soon after the truck became stuck around 12:30 p.m. Saturday. A Florida wedding party with plans to marry at Missionary Baptist Church were among the inconvenienced.
Commercial traffic is prohibited throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“His company had routed him through the park” en route to Georgia via U.S. 441, said park spokeswoman Nancy Gray. While that in itself is illegal, the driver of the truck, 52-year-old Julian Burciaga of New Mexico, made matters worse when he made a right turn at the Townsend Y.
Instead of heading up Little River Road, itself a narrow, mountain road, Burciaga, driving for SWIFT trucking company of New Mexico,made his way to Cades Cove along Laurel Creek Road.
“I’m not even sure how he managed to get in the cove without hitting another vehicle,” Gray said. Signs along park roadways in the area warn that commercial traffic is prohibited. A similar sign along US321 in Townsend before the Vicars Valley Road turn-off was removed to make way for road construction.
Burciaga got his rig about one-third mile up Loop Road, a narrow, winding, one-way road, before the rear axles dropped into a creek at a hairpin turn.As rangers began the two-hour process of turning cars behind the rig around, Butler Wrecker Service of Walland arrived on the scene with a 35-ton wrecker. After dislodging the truck and turning it around on Sparks Lane, wrecker driver Jerry Hall had to assist the truck in getting it back around the Loop Road – the wrong way.
“We had to slide him around some of those curves,” he said; meaning cables were attached to the trailer to pull it around some of the more pronounced curves.However, the tractor-trailer then became lodged on a steep grade, and “I had to drive back around” by way of Sparks Lane, “and winch him up the hill,” Hall said. Finally, some five hours after the saga of the wayward trailer began, Burciaga and his rig were freed from Cades Cove. Rangers had to close Laurel Creek Road late Saturday as the rig made its way out of the park.
Burciaga has only had his commercial license for seven months, Gray said, so a Cades Cove visitor who happened to have 17 years of driving experience drove the rig through some of the trickier terrain:
“It was pretty wild,” Hall said. Gray said Burciaga was charged with driving a commercial vehicle in the park and damage to natural resources, for total fines of $150. However, Burciaga may also be assessed restitution costs due to damage to the road, Gray said. “He really inconvenienced a lot of people,” Gray said, including the wedding party, who were in the first cars allowed back on the Loop Road after it reopened.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” said Hall, “and I’ve never seen anybody go into Cades Cove with a tractor-trailer. He was lost real bad.”
Gray said three weeks ago another tractor-trailer in the park illegally struck three cars on Little River Road before being directed out of the park by rangers. [/div][div class=’content-2-col’]click image for larger view
[/div][div class=’clear-cols’] [/div]