Truck drivers on Trace? GPS, distractions to blame

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Updated: 6/26/2013 12:33 am
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- Have you seen tractor-trailers on the Natchez Trace Parkway? Believe it or not, commercial traffic on the parkway is more common than you might think.

"Over the past year, we've written citations for close to a hundred vehicles," Chief Ranger Sarah Davis said.

That may sound like a lot, but consider the the Natchez Trace goes from Natchez to Nashville.

That's a lot of roadway to cover.

Chief Ranger Sarah Davis says 23 park rangers enforce the parkway's laws.

That number may sound small, but she says it's enough.

The most common place in north Mississippi where 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles enter the Trace is through Highway 78.

Davis said those big rigs are too big for the parkway.

"People don't realize that the Trace is a little bit more narrow than a standard highway. It's about one foot [less] per lane, so that's about two feet smaller," Davis said.

The parkway also isn't designed to accommodate the extra weight of a tractor-trailer in many cases.

So why do truck drivers get on the Trace in the first place?

Craig Waddle owns a trucking company in Tupelo.

He says the trucker's GPS device could be the culprit.

"Maybe they don't get the commercial vehicle series, and therefore it would have them going to the shortest distance," Waddle said.

In many cases, that might include the Natchez Trace on the route.

Commercial vehicle GPS devices don't even list the parkway as a possibility, but those cost more for truck drivers to buy.

Whether they're more cost-effective than a $250 ticket, though, remains to be seen.

Waddle said there are other things to consider as well.

"The driver has to watch his speedometer, tachometer, fuel, oil pressure, water temperature. There's 21 gauges in that truck that you watch, and you've still got your mirrors to maneuver stuff around and everything," Waddle said. "You've gotta shift gears. I mean, this truck has 18 gears in it."

Waddle says distraction plays a major role in whether a trucker even sees those warning signs.

Davis said the prohibition of commercial vehicles does not apply to recreational vehicles like RVs or boat trailers.

Parkway officials are asking drivers to notify a ranger if they notice a tractor-trailer on the parkway.
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