FRENCHVILLE — A recent television commercial showing a vehicle driving around logs strewn across the road by an out-of-control tractor-trailer may seem a bit far-fetched.
The same thing, however, has started happening in the St. John Valley.
Logs, albeit smaller than the huge logs shown in the commercial, have been strewn about sections of Routes 1, 11 and 161 by 18-wheelers transporting logs from the forest to sawmills and chipping mills.
Four logs, cut in 8-foot lengths and about 8 inches or smaller in diameter, were found Wednesday strewn about Route 1 between Fort Kent and Madawaska. The logs can each weigh from 100 to 200 pounds.
Vernon Labbe of Frenchville, along with his wife, Joyce, were going to Fort Kent for some Christmas shopping about a month ago. Heading north on Route 1, Labbe slowed down when he saw a tractor-trailer stopped along the road. The truck driver was removing a log from the roadway.
Labbe slowed to about 30 mph to go around the stopped truck.
“It’s a lucky thing we did,” he said Thursday. “Next, from around a curve, came a southbound truck, and he dropped three logs in the road in front of us.”
Scared and ready to dive for the floor of their minivan, Labbe said, the couple saw two of the logs bounce off the road.
“A third log,” he said, “hugged the road and rolled towards us. I had some reaction time and laid some black marks with the brakes, but we went over the rolling log.”
The trucker made good on the damage on Labbe’s minivan. Included in the $2,000 repair bill were three tires which blew out, Labbe said.
“It was a very dangerous situation,” the Frenchville resident said. “I hope it doesn’t happen again, because we came as close as it could without us getting hurt. I was worried one of those logs would come through the windshield.”
Last Friday, David Baisley of Ashland was driving his pickup, which was hauling a snowmobile trailer, south on Route 11 just south of Eagle Lake, when he saw a log come off a northbound truck.
Baisley was able to veer to the right, just near the snowbank, to avoid striking the log with his pickup truck, according to Trooper Daniel Marquis of the Maine State Police on Thursday.
The snowmobile trailer wasn’t as fortunate. The log ripped the trailer axle out from beneath the trailer.
Marquis said Brian Bouchard Jr. of Winterville, the driver of the truck, was summoned for an unsecure load.
“The incident could have been very serious,” the trooper said. “Loggers are not checking loads often enough. Their wood is icy, and it is coming loose as trucks go down the road.”
Police said Thursday the situation is very dangerous. Several officers said the situation is being caused by icy, frozen logs which are hard to strap down on the truck.
“Even strapped down with cables, the logs still pop out,” said Fort Kent Police Chief Kenneth Michaud. “It’s like trying to hold down a load of icicles.”
Trooper Tim Saucier said Thursday there have been a few minor accidents because of logs coming off trucks. He said the problem exists on Route 161, from Allagash to Fort Kent; Route 1, from Fort Kent to Van Buren; and Route 11, from Masardis to Knowles Corner.
“We’ve been fortunate because we have not had any bad accidents. We’ve been able to avoid those, so far,” Saucier said. “We’ve been finding logs along the road. It’s an ongoing problem. We are finding them everywhere, and it’s occurring more and more often.”
Trooper Dana Thibeault said that “truckers seem to be doing their best at tying down their loads. It seems to be made worse because they are hauling small stuff. The logs were cut last fall and have been under snow. They are icy, snow-covered and very slippery.”
“It’s kind of like them spitting out toothpicks,” he said.
Thibeault said some truckers have been summoned to appear in court. The fines range around $90 per incident for unsecured loads.
The situation is aggravated because the roads the trucks are traveling on are “very bumpy,” the trooper said. “The truckers are frustrated as well.”