A deviation from a planned route of travel made by an escort crew leading the way for a wide load through Stephenville resulted in damages to a local traffic signal.
Stephenville police were contacted at 11:47 a.m. Thursday after a motorist said she witnessed an 18-wheeler hauling a large piece of oilfield equipment attempt to make its way through downtown along Washington Street.
“The young lady followed the truck then said an escort vehicle was running people off the road and was hitting (traffic) lights as it came through town,” said Officer Curtis Dees.
The officer said it appeared the truck driver continued to follow his escort vehicles after they left their original route on US Hwy. 281, and turned onto Business Hwy. 377.
Once the convoy began traveling down Washington Street and approached the courthouse square, the trucker hauling the wide load had no other option but to continue down the city street, said Dees.
“Instead of going straight on 281 to get to Hwy. 67, they turned onto Business 377 through downtown,” said Dees. “When he got to Lillian, the witness said he nearly took out the traffic signal there.”
The driver of the 18-wheeler, looking for a way to get back to a major highway, then decided to turn left onto Harbin Drive, and in doing so took out one of the traffic lights suspended above the roadway.
“He tried to make a wide turn but obviously didn’t have enough room, and hit the light,” said Dees.
The truck and his escorts then continued for two blocks before a Stephenville police officer conducted a traffic stop and cited Jerry Telford, 54, of Odessa, for a truck route violation and an unsafe turn. Telford reportedly is a transport driver for E.L. Farmer & Co. based in the west Texas city.
Police conducted their traffic stop just before the railroad tracks that cross Harbin Drive, ordering the convoy to back up their load on the city street and detour along Swan Street to continue along the South Loop towards Hwy. 67 and Glen Rose. Dees said a low electrical wire near the railroad crossing would not allow the truck to continue towards the South Loop.
According to Dees, two other officers escorted the convoy out of the city limits, as they carefully maneuvered the oversized load through traffic signals along the South Loop at South Lillian, Alexander Highway and South Graham. The officer said the big load finally left town at approximately 1 p.m. leaving no additional damages behind.
After taking out the traffic light on Harbin Drive and Washing Street, officers were required to block off the southbound lanes due to the large light dangling just feet about the street. Dees said police were concerned that the light and its metal housing could fall and injure someone or damage a passing vehicle.
Maintenance crews from the Texas Department of Transportation’s Fort Worth District office were dispatched to make repairs to the light and had installed a new traffic signal and operational by 3 p.m..
Dees said damages to the light were estimated to be $1,000 - a bill the transport company is responsible for since they inadvertently left their intended route through Stephenville.
According to Dees, companies moving oversized loads must submit a proposed route to TxDOT, which approves the travel plans. “They’re also restricted on times of travel and have to stay on those roadways that are deemed OK for them to travel on. They can be fined if they go off course.”
Once the accident report is generated, a copy will be given to the transport company’s insurance provider which will cover the costs of damages, said Dees. “The driver also has a Class A CDL (commercial driver’s license). It’s a good hit to have a moving violation on your record, especially if it involves an accident.”