Truck traffic concerns continue in downtown Birmingham during interstate construction

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — There are continued concerns about truck traffic causing unsafe driving conditions in downtown Birmingham.

“We are hearing those complaints from residents and citizens more frequently and have been trying to address that through our city department of transportation, through signage and through increased enforcement,” said Councilor Darrell O’Quinn.

While O’Quinn acknowledged the importance of truck drivers, he told CBS 42 he doesn’t believe the city’s infrastructure was built to accommodate the current volume of traffic.

“A lot of these large trucks really can’t navigate the existing infrastructure so they need extra space to be able to make the turns. Often times when they don’t make the turn, they go up onto the curb, damage utility poles and other infrastructure, oftentimes they often have to turn into oncoming traffic,” said O’Quinn.

The city has added signs for non-truck routes and is enforcing the ordinance. With concern for driver, cyclist, and pedestrian safety, O’Quinn wants to see the city phase out allowing big trucks downtown. A stepped down distribution system is something he’s seen in other cities.

“Large truck traffic only comes into the outside of the city, the exterior of the city and those goods and materials are transferred in smaller trucks for delivery into the city,” said O’Quinn.

Several truck driving schools in the area stress the importance of following truck routes, paying attention to detours and signs.

“Here we do 200-hour course training our students to get them ready for the industry themselves. A lot of the companies will hire them and then put them through additional training,” said Marcus Carson with Bevill State Community College.

Carson explained that there is a shortage of truck drivers in the industry. He said companies are always seeking qualified drivers.

In addition to teaching students how to park large vehicles, Carson said students drive in a variety of situations.

“We do night driving, we carry them within the city limits dealing with red lights, a lot of traffic, and even put them out on 22 on the interstate giving them experience as well,” said Carson.

According to Carson, starting pay for truck drivers is around $40,000 per year, depending on the company. Drivers can complete the commercial driver’s license course in about 6 weeks, he said.

While Carson understands motorists’ frustration with truck traffic, he asks that drivers remain patient and leave plenty of space.

“When you are out there fussing about us, remember when you go to the grocery store or Wal-Mart, there’s a truck that brought that,” said Carson.

As construction continues around Birmingham, city leaders are working on a citywide transportation plan.

O’Quinn estimated it could be done in about a year and thinks 18-wheeler traffic will be addressed.

“We really want the city center of Birmingham, especially, to be safe for pedestrians, and cyclists and even car drivers and the infrastructure just simply wasn’t build to accommodate all of that and 80 foot long vehicles,” said O’Quinn.

For more information about the program at Bevill State, click here.

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