Kinross has proposed a test case, to use 248 miles of public streets and scenic highways for a gold ore haul from Tetlin to Fort Knox. They initially plan 192 transits daily (>70,000/year) of heavy (80T loaded) doubles, 95’ long, 24/7/365. What risks would this plan impose on the public?
In a recent report (the “Report”) entitled Fatality Facts 2020: Large Trucks, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) present sobering facts and factors in large truck crashes. IIHS and HLDI are scientific and educational nonprofits dedicated to reducing deaths and injuries from motor vehicle crashes. They update “Fatality Facts” when the U.S. Department of Transportation releases data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). You can find the Report at: https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics, under the “large truck” category.
The Report points to truck size as a safety risk: Most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants. The main problem is the vulnerability of people traveling in smaller vehicles. Trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars and are taller with greater ground clearance, which can result in smaller vehicles underriding trucks in crashes. In fact, in crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck, 97% of those killed were the occupants of the passenger vehicles.
Another factor noted is truck braking capability: Loaded tractor-trailers require 20-40 percent more distance than cars to stop, and the discrepancy is greater on wet and slippery roads or with poorly maintained brakes.
Kinross plans to build trucks and double trailers as large and heavy as allowed under current regulations. The route is mostly a two-lane highway, with no run-away lanes. There are blind corners, hills, and very few shoulders or pull-outs if conditions require a truck to stop. Much of the year, the road surface will be snowy and icy, particularly at Fairbanks stop lights. In snow conditions, trucks will create clouds of snow behind and all around them — white-out conditions.
Regarding timing of crashes, the Report states that 48% of large truck crash deaths in 2020 occurred from 6 AM to 3 PM (compared to 28% of crash deaths not involving large trucks.) In other words, almost half of large truck crash deaths happened during the time of the day when workers, visitors and school buses are most likely to be on the road. There are 188 school bus stops along the proposed Kinross route.
Another risk listed by the Report is driver fatigue: Truck driver fatigue also is a known crash risk. Drivers of large trucks are allowed by federal hours-of-service regulations to drive up to 11 hours at a stretch. Surveys indicate that many drivers violate the regulations and work longer than permitted. But a special Alaska exemption from the federal limits allows commercial truck drivers a 15-hour driving-time window, not 11, and a 20-hour duty-time window, not 15.
Alaska’s highway death rate already is among the highest in the nation, according to the Reason Foundation’s 26th Annual Highway Report: Overall Fatality Rate, which can be found at https://reason.org/policy-study/26th-annual-highway-report/. This report ranked Alaska nearly last – 46th – for its rural, and 47th for its urban, highway fatality rate, meaning Alaska has one of the highest highway fatality rates in the nation. lt ranked Alaska last – 50th – for its rural arterial pavement condition, and 48th for its rural interstate pavement condition.
These reports contain sobering facts regarding Alaska’s high highway fatality rate, poor rural highway pavement condition and risks that large trucks pose to the motoring public. Decide for yourself whether Kinross’s test case/plan makes safety sense. The facts do not lie. The risks are high. If Kinross is allowed to turn Alaska’s streets and scenic highways into its ore haul roads, imposing safety risks to Alaskans, other mines will follow.
It is important that you let your state, borough and city representatives know that the Kinross ore haul plan poses unacceptable risks to public safety.