Frequent commercial truck traffic rumbling back and forth, day and night, on a section of County Road 10 in York Township has the road’s residents hot under the collar. Unfortunately for them, the law is on the truckers’ side.
Still, Michael Stevenson, who resides on the mile-long stretch of the road leading to the trucks’ business destinations, and is acting as spokesperson for its residents, wants something done. And after frustrating attempts at resolution went nowhere he’s gone to a local legislator for help.
In a letter he sent Feb. 5 directly to the Napoleon home of District 81 State Representative Jim Hoops, Stevenson wrote: “No one is listening, and it is just a matter of ‘when’ that one of these commercial trucks will cause injury or death…CR 10 was not designed to be a trucking turnpike. It is quite simple: CR10 needs a ‘no truck thru’ posting.”
The ongoing situation is rattling both those who reside on County Road 10 and the road itself, Stevenson said. Trucks hauling scrap metal to nearby North Star Bluescope Steel and MetalX, as well as cement trucks from Gerken Companies of Henry County, are prominent among the heavy-laden commercial trucks using County Road 10 as a shortcut to their destinations, he said.
According to Stevenson, some of the vehicles can be heard approaching from a mile away and speed through without consideration for residents. He said those carrying scrap metal are constantly dropping parts of their loads onto the roadway.
Stevenson said his daughter had a close brush with a passing truck, and he barely escaped being struck and killed by one whose driver he’s convinced wasn’t paying attention.
“These drivers were impervious to it,” he said. “This is our home, and we’re being invaded by these trucks. You get hit, it’s going to be over. It’s going to be a fatality.”
The trucks barrel down that section of County Road 10, two-thirds of which is open road with no barriers, Stevenson said. The final third, closer to their destinations – usually North Star Bluescope Steel or MetalX – becomes residential, causing the truckers to hit their noisy jake brakes, which are prohibited in some areas.
The situation is so precarious that Stevenson and other County Road 10 residents won’t let their children play in certain areas where the trucks pose a safety risk. He said scrap metal has bounced off the trucks onto the road and into their yards.
Using a radar gun he owns, Stevenson clocked one truck at 77 miles per hour. He said, on average, they travel beyond the speed limit at 60 to 65 miles per hour.
Some truck drivers are using GPS functions in some cases to find shortcuts to the rears of the companies where they deliver goods to avoid heavier traffic.
“County Road 10, from (County Roads) E to F coming north, is wide open. It’s like a drag strip,” Stevenson noted. “But the north end, it’s all residential houses.”
And the brake power they must use to slow when necessary is rippling and breaking portions of the road, he said.
Stevenson emphasized he is referencing just the heavyweight commercial trucks, not local farm trucks. “I don’t begrudge them their commerce; I’m all for it,” he said of the companies. “But the trucks need to stay on the state routes.”
Truckers long ago discovered the county’s back roads are not policed as often as the highway roads and offer a shorter trip to their destinations, he said. Stevenson and other residents in the area have stopped truckers, who acknowledge they like those advantages or say GPS led them to the road or that they didn’t know it was a county road.
Some promised not to use the road again but generally the truck traffic continues. Stevenson said North Star Bluescope Steel and Metal X, located near the intersection of U.S. 20A and State Route 109, were contacted and asked to direct the drivers away from the road.
He said traffic has decreased lately, likely due to winter conditions, “but I’m sure it’s going to pick back up in the summer,” when last year truck traffic peaked to what Stevenson estimates was an average of 50 vehicles per day.
Pat Finnerty, a longtime County Road 10 resident, said “Watch for Children” signs were removed on the roadway after North Star opened for operation in 1996. She said she owns bicycles for her visiting grandchildren to ride but is frightened for them to use them.
“I worry sick about them because of the trucks. I’m afraid to mow my yard because of the semis,” she said. “The trucks don’t watch. It’s absolutely a dangerous situation.”
Road crews appear often to repair the road’s damage, Finnerty said. She said sheriff’s vehicles appear to be assigned to watch for speeding traffic from a nearby park area but do nothing to slow down the trucks.
“The cars sit down there all the time at that park, and those trucks go barrelling by and they never stop them,” she complained.
And the trucks carrying large scrap metal routinely drop parts of their loads alongside and onto her property, Finnerty said. One piece nearly ruined her lawn mower.
That’s due, in part, to scrap trucks headed to MetalX with no top covers, Stevenson said. “The metal’s slapping in the wind up top…We go to the Fulton County dump and we’re fined $10 if we don’t have a cover over the back of our pickup truck,” he said.
And, he said vibrations caused by the rumbling trucks have caused cracks in the ceiling and on a counter top in his home.
A statement from MetalX corporate offices to the Expositor says when the company first learned of concerns about the truck traffic it instructed its drivers and those of its contracted trucking companies to refrain from using County Road 10, if possible. “We will post signs at our scales to alert all carriers that service our facility of this concern from the citizens of the Delta area,” the statement says.
Neither North Star Bluescope Steel or Gerken Companies returned calls for comment.
A letter and telephone campaign to the local companies involved hasn’t done much, if anything, to slow down the problem, Stevenson said. Nine months ago a neighbor of his complained and did receive a call from Hoops, who promised to look into the matter. The neighbor didn’t hear from Hoops again.
So Stevenson wrote to Hoops, explaining the problem and asking for a remedy. He hasn’t heard from Hoops, either.
The state representative said he’s received several letters complaining about the truck traffic, but only two included the authors’ names. He said he has spoken with Fulton County officials, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Ohio Department of Transportation, and the Fulton County Economic Development Corporation in order to resolve the problem.
All have told him the same thing: the road is legal to drive on by everyone.
“I would rather not see (trucks) use them,” Hoops said. He added that he’s trying to fully learn all the facts and look into what can or cannot be done to solve the problem before he contacts complainants.
He visited the location to survey it, but didn’t see trucks while he was there. He said state troopers told him they haven’t detected speeding in the area.
Major Matt Smithmyer of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office said the department’s hands are tied.
“We can’t enforce something that doesn’t exist,” he said of laws prohibiting trucks on the road.
Smithmyer said sheriff’s deputies regularly patrol the area. “We sit for hours on end and catch one or two. (But) it’s kind of difficult when you’re in a marked car,” he said.
Unless legislation is passed forbidding truck traffic there is nothing to be done, Smithmyer added.
Fulton County Commissioner Jeff Rupp agreed. “If a road is built to certain standards, there’s no authority of any jurisdiction to restrict traffic on that road. There’s no restriction that would legally allow the county or the township to restrict traffic on there,” he said.
Rupp knows the trucks are using the road as a shortcut. “They don’t want to come down Shoop Avenue (in Wauseon) and deal with the city traffic so they’re using GPS to find a route. Unfortunately, that’s a legal route, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them,” he said.
The commissioners have asked the sheriff’s office to beef up patrols in the area. Other than that, Rupp said, “We can’t restrict the the traffic on the road because there’s no legal justification to do so, and it wouldn’t be enforceable if we did.”
Hoops said his next step will be to contact the truckers’ employers and and ask them to work with the county to stem the constant traffic. But he said any attempt to change County Road 10 to a no-truck zone would be far-reaching.
“To change something like that, you’re looking at dealing with people across the state and the trucker’s association, so it’s not like something you can change overnight,” he said. “If we change it here it also is changed in other parts of the state.”
Stevenson is admittedly no fan of Hoops’ efforts or the county commissioners, who he believes play favorites with the local companies involved.
“We’re not asking them to stop the commerce, we’re just asking them to stay out of the residential areas of the county roads,” he said of the truckers.
He’d also like Hoops to meet with him and other concerned residents. “Let him see visually with his eyes the area…Then they would grasp the problem,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.