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Published March 27 2012

Forum editorial: ‘Trucker bombs’ insult North Dakota

The euphemism “trucker bombs” can’t lessen the disgust factor associated with urine-filled containers being tossed into road ditches by truck drivers in western North Dakota. No matter how mouthpieces for trucking associations try to justify it, there is no excuse for tossing gallons of urine onto the landscape. No matter how long the haul, how many hours behind the wheel, a driver always has an option other than tossing a jug out the window.

It’s more than merely a litter violation, although the volume of “traditional” roadside litter has increased markedly with the rise of the oil boom. Containers filled with human waste constitute a bio-hazard. It’s not only disgusting stuff, it’s also potentially a health hazard.

Because of the nature of the new element in the litter mix, people who volunteered in the past to clean up road ditches are saying, “No way!” Road maintenance crews, such as mower operators, have had to take extraordinary precautions to avoid being sprayed by human waste when a jug is crushed by a wheel or ripped open by a mower blade.

It raises the question: What’s wrong with these truckers? Blithely tossing human waste into western North Dakota’s road ditches is an astonishing act of disrespect. Clearly, they just don’t give a hoot. What about the companies they work for? No rules? No codes of conduct? No expectation of basic decency from drivers, many of whom are in the state only because of Oil Patch jobs? Would they engage in similar behavior while driving through the neighborhoods where they live – where they came from?

As for lame-brained excuses, the lamest comes from Tom Balzer, executive vice president of the North Dakota Motor Carriers Association. “… One of the biggest problems,” he said, “is there isn’t a lot of places for these guys to stop and properly dispose of the receptacles.” That’s not accurate. But even if it were true, it does not follow that the alternative is tossing them out the window. If the stuff is in a “receptacle” (and the evidence in road ditches confirms it is), then why not just keep it in the spacious truck cab until reaching a destination or until the next fuel stop?

Meanwhile, check the map. There are many places from 10 to 40 miles apart on busy truck routes where truckers can use bathrooms. Drivers obviously choose not to stop. (See letter to the editor from Tioga, N.D., on this page.)

This new insult from oil country is a disgusting and potentially dangerous practice. It’s also irresponsible and disrespectful. But if the trucking industry, the companies that hire trucks and the organizations that represent motor carriers continue to soft-pedal what their drivers are doing, it’s just going to get worse.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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