GRIDLOCK GUY: Exploring the trend of recent Cherokee County chicken truck spills

When one gets wind of a chicken truck spilling chicken scraps and innards, the melee is hard to ignore. When this has happened in the same county multiple times in the last few weeks, then they would be remiss to not at least explore a reason for the trend.

Chicken truck spills are very specific. Chicken innards truck spills are even more so.

So, what the cluck?

North Georgia is more prone to this ugly phenomena, because more chickens get killed in the Peach State than anywhere else in the world. Gainesville, in particular, is the chicken processing world capital. This probably will not land the jewel of Hall County a Summer Olympics, an F1 Grand Prix, or an NHL franchise.

But the industry thrives in this region and one such chicken plant is the Pilgrim’s Pride facility in Cherokee County. Chicken trucks traverse the Cherokee roads often. Say that three times fast.

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Baker has noticed this trend of spills and has gotten the same questions: why so often lately and why so often in Cherokee?

“I can tell you that this is happening when the tractor trailer trucks brake hard. The material shifts forward,” Baker told the AJC and 95.5 WSB. “And (the material) comes over the top of the trailer and lands all over the exterior of the tractor trailer and (spills) onto the road.”

These spills are more noticeable, because of the need to shut bigger stretches of roads and the lengthy time to clear. “The material is very greasy and makes the roadway slick.” Responders do not want drivers streaking through chicken guts and then wiping out.

These parts are used for feed and other products the industry needs, Baker said, and sometimes they are just passing through the county. He does not think there is anything particularly amiss in the industry of late or that Cherokee has some strange curse bestowed upon it by the poultry gods.

The Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Motor Carrier Compliance Department has their hands full with all of the freight passing through and around Georgia. This has put DPS Sergeant Chasen Woodie and me in touch quite often lately.

Woodie said while there isn’t a chicken industry failure of some kind, truck spills of this ilk often involve similar factors.

“The trailers used are just basic dump trailers with a tarp on top, so when they come to a hard stop, the contents keep moving forward at the same speed. The contents are more liquid when it is hot during the summer. In the colder months, it’s more of a jelly type,” Woodie explained.

Baker said that the county cited the driver in a recent chicken-guts-spill on Highway 20 at Butterworth Road for failing to secure their load.

Woodie said these crashes and spills often share another characteristic. “Often following too closely and distracted driving.”

When drivers with heavy payloads make mistakes, the consequences are worse. So the burden of responsibility soars. When surrounding motorists drive aggressively around these trucks, they can help force these errors.

This is especially true around loads of chicken parts, which are in these open trailers and can slosh easily.

I asked Woodie if there was a reason the chicken industry seems to be in these messes in Georgia more often than, say, the oil or lumber or horse or car industry. He does not think there is something that the poultry companies themselves are doing any differently than the others. “No more than any other commercial industry. It’s just more gross of a spill and clean-up.”

And when a chicken spill cleanup is this headline catching and gross and intrusive, it is more memorable.

There are just a lot of open trailer trucks with chicken guts. Those professional drivers should drive with their heads up and like there are eggshells under the throttles.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. Download the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App to hear reports from the WSB Traffic Team automatically when you drive near trouble spots. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.

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