PHILLIPSBURG – Oversize wind turbine loads coming through the area and their related problems united virtually the entire population of Phillips County in opposition to dangerous conditions and major hassles caused by them starting around five years ago.
With around 4,000 such loads passing through the county in the past few years (so says the Kansas Department of Transportation), massive traffic tie-ups, destruction of roadway infrastructure and delayed travel times have been among the problems. On top of everyone’s list, however, have been complaints about pilot car drivers.
Those issues, which led to a local public uproar, resulted in a “solution” of bypassing the loads around Phillipsburg by detouring them down K-383 in northwest Phillips County. As it turns out this wasn’t a solution at all, it just moved the problems to different residents in a slightly different geographic area.
That flawed fix to the problem came to a head a few months ago when repeated oversize load accidents shut down all of K-383 multiple times the entire length of its route through Phillips County and on into Norton County.
The problem was so bad that as Phillips County Review editor Kirby Ross, who has been reporting on the oversize load controversy for several years, was sitting down drafting an editorial on the matter, yet another major K-383 oversize load accident came over the scanner.
After that editorial was completed and ran in the newspaper, it was quickly picked up by major media outlets in Hays and Salina.
Before long the Review received a phone call from Wanda Seyffer of Limon, Colo., who advised the newspaper that Ross’ editorial had been a “wake up call” and had gone viral inside the pilot car driver industry after it was posted on online pilot car bulletin boards nationwide.
Afterward Ross and Seyffer had a lengthy telephone conversation, during which Ross invited Seyffer to write down her thoughts on the matter.
Those thoughts are published below.
Attn. Mr. Kirby Ross:
Thank you for your time today!
Oversize loads are everywhere. The movement of these loads are normally carefully planned. This involves coordinating the trucking company, pilot ar escorts, state and local county/city permits, dealing with weather and safe havens to park by sunset in most cases. Depending on the load dimensions there may be bucket trucks involved to lift traffic lights, wires and cables.
Apologies to all of Phillipsburg residents for those of you who experienced the few bad apples who crossed the center line playing “chicken” and any other antics!!!
For the most part, Pilot Car drivers are professional in warning the general public and traffic. The truck driver should give the pilots time to set up and secure an intersection without causing Starsky and Hutch moves.
The pilot should then be parking on the shoulder, getting out and stopping traffic with a stop/slow paddle and flag, then radioing the truck driver that it is clear to proceed.
When stopped it helps everyone involved to sit and be patient until the oversize load(s) pass. Abusive language and hand gestures are experienced all to often. Patience and a smile or an encouraging word helps everyone.
Amber flashing lights are what pilot cars are required to run on their light bars. When the public sees these amber lights many times they are ignored, unlike the law enforcement red and blue lights. It is always so helpful to be assisted by local law enforcement!
Public awareness of using caution, slow down, pull over or off the road and stop when directed by a pilot car keeps everyone safe. Be patient, kind and work with the oversize load elements and a smooth movement is achieved.
Wanda M. Seyffer
A-1 Pilot Car, LLC