Moved by fatal crash, aldermen mandate safety equipment on trucks
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Moved by a 2015 truck crash that mowed down a Mexican immigrant and her children, Chicago aldermen agreed Tuesday to spend $5 million to retrofit the city’s truck fleet with safety-equipment and require private contractors to do the same.
The City Council’s Budget Committee voted to impose the new requirement — by 2026 for the city’s 1,700 trucks and 2021 for private trucks — after Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld recalled the crash at 43rd and Ashland that killed Elizabeth Peralta-Luna, 30, and her two children: Elizabeth, 9, and Dylan, 4.
The young mom was walking hand-in-hand with her kids when she was mowed down by a truck making a left turn without the side guards and mirrors that will now be required on all heavy trucks.
“The first point of impact was the rear wheels of the truck. That means that Ms. Peralta-Luna and her children were caught up underneath the truck and perished,” Scheinfeld said.
Scheinfeld noted that one of the mandatory safety improvements would be “lateral protection devices, otherwise known as side-guards” installed along the side of the truck, between the front and rear wheels, to create a physical barrier.
That’s tailor-made to prevent an individual from being “swept up under the rear wheels of the vehicle” in the event of a collision.
“There may still be a collision, but the severity of the [injuries] would be dramatically reduced and they may still walk away. We would hope, if that truck had had a side-guard, that Ms. Peralta-Luna and her two young children could still be with us today,” the commissioner said.
Starting on July 1, 2018, construction companies awarded city contractors and sub-contracts valued at $2 million or more will be required to install side-guards, left and right convex mirrors and at least one crossover mirror on the passenger side.
The edict will apply to large vehicles with a gross weight exceeding 10,000 pounds.
The regulations would be phased in over a four-year period.
The city would have nine years to comply. The only exceptions would be ambulances, fire apparatus and low-speed vehicles with maximum speeds under 15 mph or agricultural trailers.
The commitment to require safety equipment on large vehicles was part of Rahm Emanuel’s ambitious “Vision Zero” campaign to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2026.
At $3,100-per-truck for side-guards and $400 for each pair of “convex rear-view mirrors,” Fleet and Facilities Management Commissioner David Reynolds pegged the cost of retrofitting the city’s 1,700 trucks at $5 million.
The money will come from the annual city budget spent on parts, Reynolds said.
Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin (34th) was all for the crackdown. She recalled a Far South Side accident involving a city dump truck that “caught the tail end of a young lady and killed her.”
“If no other ideas have been good coming out of the city, this is an excellent one. … It does save lives,” Austin said, pointing to the danger posed by the city’s burgeoning number of bike paths and bike lanes.
To minimize the financial burden on “small, minority” contractors, the safety edict will be phased in after a one-year notice, said Chief Procurement Officer Jamie Rhee.
Contractors can also apply for a six-month extension of the phased-in deadline or a waiver if company officials can prove the mandate poses an “undue financial hardship,” Rhee said.