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Block the Rocks

May 15, 1988

The situation is depressingly familiar to most California motorists. The driver is following a large gravel truck. The truck hits a bump. A volley of pebbles spills onto the roadway and one or more of the small rocks bounces into the windshield or the painted finish of the following auto. The instant result is a cracked or pitted windshield or a chipped paint job. The documented cost of such incidents is $17 million a year. The real cost is as high as$60 million by one estimate, but no one knows for certain because so many cases of damage or accident go unreported.

The solution of this common problem is simple, as 18 other states have found: an enforceable law requiring tarps or other covers on truck bodies carrying sand, gravel, rock or other aggregate materials. Such a bill again has passed the California Assembly but faces a roadblock in the Senate Transportation Committee because of opposition from the trucking industry, which claims that the cost of truck covers is too high. But it is an expense that all truckers would share, and it would be passed on as a cost of doing business.

Present California law requires covers or other means of preventing spillage, but it provides only that violators be cited with an infraction and rarely is enforced. AB 10, sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda) and scheduled for a Senate hearing on Tuesday, would require covers and make a violation a misdemeanor. This would be a more appropriate response to a problem that just should not exist.

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