Metro Atlanta has had three cattle truck crashes in the last five months. As you may have gotten wind of (no reference to cow flatulence intended), a truck carrying 89 cattle tipped over on the I-285/eastbound (Inner Loop) ramp to I-75/northbound in Cobb at 3:30 a.m. Monday. 11 cows died in the melee, but many ran loose for hours. That Cobb Cloverleaf ramp stay closed until the afternoon, creating massive delays on I-285/northbound up from I-20 through AM drive. That sent extra traffic onto I-75/85/northbound, which then got terrible with a major wreck at 10th Street. Scared out of their bovine minds, cows ran loose on I-75 and I-285 and on side streets in the area. At least 10 cars hit them and got damage. One on the run seemed to object to Channel 2 Action News’ Steve Gehlbach’s phone video of it. Another charged at first responders, who were trying to guide it into a truck next to I-75.
At least two cows evaded authorities until Monday evening, meaning authorities had to allocate resources for close to 18 hours for this mess. Triple Team Traffic’s Alex Williams, Jill Nelson and I watched on the WSB Jam Cam on I-285/eastbound over the Chattahoochee River bridge as police corralled one against the right hand wall around 4 p.m. But it somehow got loose and hopped the wall, running down the hill and through the woods. Newschopper 2’s Jason Durden eventually spotted it from above taking a stroll in the Chattahoochee River.
"I never thought I'd be tracking cows from a helicopter" NewsChopper 2's @JasonDurdenWSB during a liveshot. The rogue cow took a dip in a river off of Powers Ferry Road in North Fulton County.— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) October 1, 2018
WATCH LIVE: https://t.co/RAqiHsAYU2
Continuing UPDATES on Channel 2 Action News. pic.twitter.com/CJSw2xhDgv
After all this, my traffic cohort Ashley Frasca posed a great question to me: who has to pony up (pun intended) in major tie-ups like this? Do the offending drivers also have to pay for the giant time inconveniences they create?
“In the case of an ‘at fault’ crash, trucking companies and large truck drivers are responsible for the damages they cause, just like other motorists operating passenger cars and light trucks,” a Georgia State Patrol spokesperson told the AJC and WSB. “Usually, these damages are paid by the company or the insurance carrier.”
This is why investigations for commercial vehicle crashes can last even longer. Not only do big vehicles often create greater damage, but determining fault channels the giant bill in someone’s direction. But this principle also applies to the more common wrecks between passenger vehicles. If one damages the guardrail, the government isn’t supposed to be the party that pays.
“If there is physical damage to the infrastructure associated with the crash, we have a third-party contract in place for claims,” GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale explained. This outside company works on behalf of GDOT to collect damages from the offending party’s insurance company. With the numerous wrecks around town, those damage bills add up.
Besides the physical cost of either repairing walls or hiring cowboys to wrangle steer (as occurred Monday), there is also the opportunity cost for thousands of motorists inconvenienced by a closure that someone caused. Don’t wait for a check on that.
“We do not recall any situations where anyone has been paid for any ‘inconvenience time’ suffered because of a crash,” GSP said. And Dale echoed that same sentiment. Most Atlantans would have a small fortune if this was true and enforced.
At the very least, we can rest assured that those found at fault in wrecks have to pay for the carnage caused and extra manpower needed to clean up messes. But take note that this fault can fall on a motorist that cuts off a tractor trailer or slams into the back of a HERO unit. With so many big trucks hauling freight through our metro area, we need to be extra cautious and give a wide berth around them. We knew the gridlock consequences and now we know that our insurance premiums can feel the consequences also. As of press time, we do not know whom Cobb Police faulted with Monday’s “Great Cow Escape” tumble.
Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.