SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Interstate 90 across South Dakota is closed from Chamberlain to the Wyoming border as of 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.
For some, this may be an inconvenience, though many travelers likely were preparing for inclement weather. One group that is absolutely inconvenienced is the trucking industry.
“No one’s making money when the truck is sitting still,” said Dan Chipper with K&J Trucking. “It costs the customer — it costs the driver, because he or she doesn’t get the miles they anticipated for the day — it costs us because you’ve gotta run the truck to keep the driver safe and warm.”
Schipper notes that while any kind of road closure affects the business, I-90 especially has an impact. “It affects us pretty much everywhere, but especially close to home here,” he said.
Thanks to the modern marvels of communication, drivers are rarely surprised by road closures, especially on Interstate Highways. “It’s nice now that they have all the apps and they can get real-time updates instead of waiting and finding out when they get there,” said Schipper.
Just because you’re able to better predict a closure, that doesn’t mean you can always avoid it.
“Wyoming’s notorious for closing down their interstate,” Schipper said, mentioning that it was closed around 80 times last winter. He says that to avoid some road closures, his drivers will at times take alternate routes.
An alternate route isn’t always practical though.
Tony Williamson, Adam Kindsfoter and Curtis Williamson are truck drivers for A&L Contractors in Spearfish, South Dakota. The trio says that in a situation like we’re seeing on Dec. 13, where the weather system is spanning a large region, a detour might not be plausible.
“If it’s something like this, where it’s everywhere — an interstate is going to be the first road to get cleared,” said the trio.
At the end of the day, Schipper says that safety is always the priority. “No load is worth anybody’s life,” he said. “With our drivers, even if it’s not closed and they say ‘hey I’m just not comfortable with it,’ we’re gonna tell them to stop the truck. Safety’s the most important thing.”
This was echoed by the Kindsfoter and the two Williamson’s. “Slow down and drive careful,” they said. “When it’s too bad, shut down and go home.”
As for when the interstates reopen, the three say the decision to hop right back on the road can depend on a few factors. “I think it depends on what your freight is,” one said. “If I’m sitting at the bottom of the passes and I have to go up — I’m probably going to sit it out a little while. I don’t want to be one of the first ones up there to find out I should’ve waited,” said another. “If it’s running across the plains of South Dakota and they open it up, I’m probably fairly comfortable.”
Overall, Schipper says he thinks it’s a good thing that states move to close interstates in dangerous weather, despite the cost. “Road closures are good in the fact that it’s better to get home late than not get home at all,” he said.