Truck trouble: Time to put on the brakes

To a speeding truck overladen with cargo, a roundabout is the equivalent of a landmine. In other words, it represents real trouble ahead.

It doesn’t require an in-depth understanding of physics concepts such as angular momentum, inertia and torque to recognize that attempting to negotiate a curve at high velocity tends to make things topple over. Local experience will suffice.

In mid-June, a cement truck overturned at a roundabout near Public Beach, causing a spectacle and a road hazard. In April 2012, again at the roundabout near Grand Harbour, a truck hauling a full load of aggregate careened onto its side, dumping marl into the Scotiabank parking lot. Those are just a couple of examples that made the pages of this newspaper; the vast majority do not. In Cayman, these unsafe practices have caused injuries and, yes, deaths. (Truck accidents tend to be particularly unpleasant.)

On Wednesday afternoon, a truck spilled its payload of plywood near the Grand Harbour roundabout, blocking the road and bringing afternoon rush-hour traffic to a standstill. More distressingly, a red BMW next to the truck wound up riding over the stack of plywood, damaging the vehicle. The BMW’s occupant(s), and indeed all people who were close by, were lucky they didn’t end up beneath the plywood.

It is important to note that, in this most recent situation, we do not yet know who was “at fault,” or if speed or improper loading were factors in the accident. For instance, the truck may have been cut off by another vehicle, or had to swerve to avoid an obstacle. We only mention Wednesday’s traffic jam to illustrate the immediate effects that such an accident can cause.

When trucks are, however, speeding or carrying unsafe loads, the problem, fundamentally, isn’t the roundabouts — or the cargo — it’s the people loading and driving the trucks. To use a term from chemistry class, the roundabout is an “accelerant” that hastens the reaction to the perilous situation created by human negligence.

Everyone who travels the streets of Cayman on a regular basis can bear witness to instances where trucks — carrying lumber, marl, furniture, landscaping materials, garbage, junk, you name it — have been packed with too much stuff, or else do not have their cargo properly secured, and — materials teetering, tottering, spilling out and flying off — nevertheless speed and weave through traffic, as if they were stock cars racing down the home stretch at Daytona, or menacing motorbikes tearing through West Bay, rather than hulking vehicles navigating crowded surface roads.

Cayman’s regulations to the Traffic Law clearly stipulate, in a section titled “Unsafe loading,” that inadequately secured or restrained cargo, that poses a “danger” or a “nuisance,” is grounds for a $400 fine, six months’ imprisonment, or both.

We vote for both.

At this point, posed with problems that are obvious, hazardous and subject to unambiguous legal guidance, we feel obliged to inquire, “Where are our police?” (In our minds, the issue of unsafely loaded trucks is analogous to the issue of dark-tinted windows — except that the former constitutes a clear and present danger.)

The potential loss of inventory, and the causing of collateral damage to human life, are apparently not sufficient impetus to dissuade truck loaders, and truck drivers, from engaging in behavior that puts the rest of us at risk.

It is past time for law enforcement to use their ticket books to enforce the laws that are on the books.



  1. I think that the problem is that how the laws are written and the words that are used in the laws, makes it hard for the police to enforce them is the biggest problem. Them you have the company with no safety rules in place for employees to follow. Common sense would tell you if your company truck go out on public road with a unsecured load and driver and cause damage to someone/property , you the company are liable for the damages, that could have been prevented.

  2. On my recent ride in a taxi from Santo Domingo to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, I could not help but notice that it was impossible to speed through roundabouts because of serious speed bumps. Series of impressive speed bumps right before you approach a roundabout were well designed and well constructed to prevent speeding through. You can preach and teach, beg and shame, but people will do what they feel like.Always. Designing a road with that in mind solves this problem. Case closed.
    As a side note, I really loved their all inclusive 5 stars resort in Punta Cana. Shaded sidewalks throughout resort with soft music playing add so much to overall comfort.

  3. The bigger the truck the faster they go that’s the street law. We dont have any traffic police so people do as they please but man those big trucks are scary i try my best to stay far far away from them.

  4. If you voted my comment down, it would be interesting to hear your arguments. There is such a thing as "foolproof" that must be applied to prevent speeding through roundabouts. And that is exactly what I saw in The Dominican Republic.
    We can debate until hell freezes over, but people will remain people and each and every one of us is sure that what he or she does is almost always right. We have our conditioning, believes, perceptions, etc. No laws, enforced or not, can change it.
    I also want to add to my comment about 5 star resort in Punta Cana- it was very affordable and excellent value for the money.
    Mark Twain said "…Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…"
    Travel more, see the world , change your hard-core opinions.

  5. There is a technological solution,

    It’s actually a win / win for everyone except bad drivers.

    More and more companies around the world are implementing "in vehicle monitoring" – a sealed "black box" costing a few hundred dollars

    When you consider the capital cost of a truck, they need to be on the road recouping that investment, not in the shop waiting for repairs.

    A vehicle which is driven harshly, driven hard or driven aggressively, will use more fuel, need frequent tyre and brake changes, and the engine and transmission will fail prematurely.

    The technology is based on GPS (like satellite navigation) so it knows WHERE (and can show speed and also the posted speed limit at that point), but it also has accelerometers to measure hard braking, fast cornering and hard acceleration.

    Companies who paint their names on the side of the truck would do well to install such devices and if the driver is the faulty component, replacement is easy.
    Given the high cost of fuel these systems pay for themselves very quickly – A company on island found their fuel bill dropped by 3000 dollars a month – company vehicles stopped being used for personal errands…
    Their insurance premium also fell!

    This would also solve the Bus issue where drivers deviate from their route!

    While not as advanced as the above systems, the UK requires all heavy/passenger vehicles to be fitted with a Tachograph which records drivers hours and speeds – prevents speeding and abuse of drivers hours regulations.

    In the event of an accident the systems can be used to prosecute OR EXONERATE a driver.

    If the government were to require this technology much the same way as a UK Tachograph then the benefits are clear.

  6. "…we feel obliged to inquire, “Where are our police?…"

    Why doesn’t a journalist from the Compass asked the Chief of Police this questions and then they can report the answer.

    We know the Editor has the Chief’s phone number.

  7. @Andy Gray
    Application of the technological solutions you are taking about would make sense in a company with a large fleet of commercial vehicles. Here, in the Cayman Islands, often the owners of the vehicles are the main offenders.