Centennial neighbors get dump truck driver’s view

Within days, the first of 30,000 dump truck loads will be hauled from Powell Butte to Gresham. Read how you can safely maneuver around these big rigs, whether in a car or on a bicycle …

A dump truck driver is likely to see Portland Water Bureau’s Peter Nierengarten – as long as he rides his bicycle in the “Safe Mirror Zone”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Starting after the July 4 weekend, one dump truck will exit Powell Butte Nature Park every 2 to 4 minutes – averaging 100 truck trips per day.

This means, over the six to eight months, about 30,000 truckloads of dirt and rock will make the trip from Powell Butte to the quarry out in Gresham, as part of the “Powell Butte Reservoir 2” construction project.

Giving a driver’s-eye view
“We’re partnering again with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance to spotlight safety concerns of bicycles and large trucks sharing the road,” said Portland Water Bureau engineer, and avid cyclist, Peter Nierengarten.

“Motorized vehicle drivers can learn a lot from this demonstration, as well,” Nierengarten told us, at a special event held in the Safeway Supermarket, at SE 164 Avenue at SE Division Street on June 6. “We want people to see the view from a dump truck driver’s seat, and learn more about blind spots, and other dangers related to riding a bike – or driving – near large vehicles.”

After climbing up into the cab, we looked in the passenger-side mirror. Nierengarten positioned himself in the “safe zone”, where we could see him. Riding a couple of feet closer or further from the truck, and the cyclist disappeared from our view.

Nierengarten suggests catching the truck operator’s attention with a friendly wave, to make sure you’ve made eye contact.

Suggests making eye contact
Rejoining him beside the dump truck, Nierengarten pointed out the “blind spots” alongside the truck.

“The most important message is that you should make eye contact with the operator of the vehicle,” Nierengarten said. “If you can see the driver’s face in the mirror, then he or she can see you.  If you’re beside the track, and you wave at him or her, and if they wave back at you, they know that you’re there. If the operator doesn’t know you’re there, you may be in real danger.”

PWB truck driver Jeffery Casey asks drivers to give the dump trucks a “little extra room” as they haul dirt from Powell Butte to Gresham this summer.

An operator’s request
Jeffery Casey, an equipment operator with Portland Water Bureau for many years, told us that the drivers have a lot to watch for while they’re driving loaded dump truck.

“At any given time, a loaded truck can weigh up to 50,000 pounds – that’s 25 tons – so there’s no way to quickly stop or make rapid maneuvers. We strive to constantly be aware of our surroundings. We allow plenty of room for our trucks to navigate the highway and traffic around us.”

Casey asks of the drivers with whom he shares the road, “Please know that we have a heavy load, and give us a little extra room. Make sure that as a driver – or bike rider – you can see the truck driver’s face. Safety is our utmost concern; we appreciate all courtesies drivers extend to us.”

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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