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Leaf vacuum trucks ordered off the streets in two cities

After one death and one serious injury, the Wisconsin State Patrol has ordered Oshkosh and Neenah to park some of their leaf collector trucks because the front-mounted vacuum collectors block the driver's vision. Earlier this month a 43 year-old Neenah pedestrian was hit by a leaf truck and critically hurt, and last November, an 18 year-old man was killed when the driver of a leaf vacuum truck whose vision was obstructed by the device struck him in Sheboygan. The State Patrol warned municipalities about the problem last year but it seems the message didn't stick. When the trucks were spotted on the streets again this year, the Patrol banned them.

City officials are not happy about it. Neenah Mayor George Scherk says the city has used front-mounted vacuums for 15 years, and he's not sure one accident makes them unsafe. "We've had accidents with snowplows, and we don't take all our snowplows off the street," he said. Neenah's public works director says it will take longer to clean the streets using slower rear-mounted collectors. Oshkosh's public works director says he wasn't aware that the truck configuration was illegal. Reconfiguring them will take time and the city will go back to an older, slower collection method until the work is finished.

The State Patrol says it normally does not go looking for equipment violations on city-owned vehicles, but after last year's fatality and this year's injury accident they decided to get tough. Troopers threatened to ticket both the driver and city officials unless the trucks were pulled off the road. Neenah tried to strike a bargain, offering to put another truck with warning lights in front of the leaf sweeper and a second person in the cab as a spotter, but the Patrol said "no." A Patrol spokesman told reporters, "The Legislature made the law and I don't know that we have the ability to say, 'It's OK. Let's work around it.' The law is the law." .

Source: Sheboygan Press, "Wisconsin State Patrol blocks certain leaf trucks in Neenah, Oshkosh," Duke Behnke, Oct. 24, 2012

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