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The Nation

Trucker Don Copeland turns Christmas parade ‘blue’ to honor fallen law enforcement



Donald Copeland decked out his white 2019 Freightliner Cascadia with blue Christmas lights, a wreath and a fallen officer’s flag to commemorate three officers killed in the line of duty in the past 18 months in his hometown of Brookhaven, Mississippi. (Courtesy: DON COPELAND)

By Dorothy Cox

BROOKHAVEN, Miss. — Twenty-five-year OTR driver Donald Copeland, 54, has long had a warm place in his heart for the “boys [and girls] in blue.”

And like many others in his hometown of Brookhaven, Mississippi, located 60 miles south of Jackson, he was tired of law enforcement getting killed in the line of duty.

Brookhaven has lost three officers in the past 18 months: William Durr, with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office; Corp. Zach Moak, with the Brookhaven Police Department; and Brookhaven Patrol Officer James White.

Durr was a good friend of Copeland’s, and was a church youth worker and a fellow Mason, Copeland said. Like the other two men, Durr lost his life when he was shot while checking out a case of domestic violence.

So Copeland decided to do something to remember these three and other men and women like them who put their lives on the line daily.

Held the night of November 30, Brookhaven’s annual Christmas parade seemed the ideal time to Copeland to deck out his white 2019 Freightliner Cascadia in blue Christmas lights, blue and silver garlands and wreaths.

Copeland has been with Swift Transportation for about two years, and they readily agreed to his plan. “They gave the A-OK to do it,” he said. “They were very much on board.”

He also added stickers saying “We Back the Boys in Blue” and “Heroes Are Never Forgotton” on either side of his sleeper.

Law enforcement of this southern town were not told they were being honored in the parade, although Copeland had contacted some relatives of the fallen officers.

A cadre of law enforcement were to lead the parade and unknown to them, Copeland’s Freightliner was staged to follow right behind them.

Here, Copeland places a wreath of remembrance on his 2019 Cascadia to honor fallen law enforcement during a Christmas parade held November 30. (Courtesy: DONALD COPELAND)

Copeland said the parade was “pretty emotional” for him as “this is an issue near and dear to my heart.”

All three of the fallen officers’ names were also on his truck, along with a fallen officer’s flag draped across the hood.

Amid the tinsel and lights, it was a somber reminder but a heart-felt one.

Copeland has driven commercial trucks off and on since he graduated from high school, starting out driving for his uncle in the summer months until his father died some 25 years ago. It was then that Copeland decided he would devote himself full time to driving over-the-road and he hasn’t regretted it.

“I owe a lot to trucking,” he said. Besides offering him a profession he loves, trucking was also what brought Copeland and his wife Candie together in 2000 in Commerce City, Colorado, a northern suburb of Denver.

She was driving for another trucking company, but one thing led to another and after they married, he moved with her to her hometown of Brookhaven.

Candie was among Brookhaven citizens cheering on her husband during the parade.

“We wanted to honor these gentlemen and stop the violence,” Donald Copeland said.

According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial fund, preliminary figures as of December 3 show 129 law enforcement killed so far this year. That’s compared with 122 last year, a 6 percent increase.

The names of the fallen include members of the FBI, state troopers, police and sheriff’s offices, juvenile justice department officers, department of corrections officers, department of homeland security officers, and wildlife and fisheries officers. Eight of them were women.

A total of 25 canine officers have also been killed in the line of duty this year.






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The Nation

Diesel prices continue inching upward



The average price for a gallon of diesel nationwide rose exactly one penny for the week ending March 25, to stand at $3.08 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). With the weekly increase, diesel costs 7 cents more than it did a year ago and 11½ cents above a recent low-water mark in late January, where the price hovered at $2.965 for two weeks and then at $2.966 for two more before beginning the current slow climb.

Diesel prices rose in every EIA region in the country with the exception of the Central Atlantic region of the East Coast, which saw a tiny $0.003 drop in diesel, to finish at $3.310, which is still the highest price to be found anywhere outside California and is 9.3 cents above what it was in the Central Atlantic a year ago.

North and south of the Central Atlantic, the New England and Lower Atlantic regions both recorded price increases of $0.014, giving the aggregate East Coast an increase of $0.008, to stand at $3.132. In New England, the price of diesel stands at $3.214, while in the Lower Atlantic, it is $2.995, one of four regions where diesel is still under $3 per gallon.

With a minimal $0.001 increase, the Midwest stayed just below the $3 threshold, at $2.993, while the Gulf Coast, as usual, enjoys the lowest diesel prices in the nation, at $2.876, up $0.007 from a week earlier.

Diesel also remains under $3 in the Rocky Mountain region, at $2.974, after a 3-cent gain, the second-largest increase, after California’s $0.038 price hike. The Rocky Mountain region is currently the only region in the country where diesel costs less than it did a year ago.

The overall price of diesel rose on the West Coast to $3.526, an increase of $0.029. California has both the highest diesel prices, $3.819, and the highest year-to-year increase, an even 15 cents.

Crude oil prices were split on Monday, Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil, rose by 18 cents, to $67.21 a barrel, while U.S. crude ended Monday’s session down 22 cents, at $58.22.

Early Tuesday, Brent was up 92 cents, and U.S. crude had added $1.28.

Click here for a complete list of average prices by region for the past three weeks.

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The Nation

Pothole season creating bumper crop of bumpy roads



An Ohio Department of Transportation crew fills in a pothole. Conditions this winter and early spring have caused a notable increase in the number of road divots appearing this year. (Courtesy OHIO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION)

A harsher-than-usual and prolonged winter is increasing the pothole repair workload for many state departments of transportation.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) reported March 18 that its crews patched 400,000 potholes through the first two months of 2019, compared to the approximately 619,000 potholes they patched for all of 2018.

The agency plans to keep 300 pothole patching crews busy statewide with roadway repairs through April.

“We are working as hard as we can to fill the potholes,” said Becky Allmeroth, MoDOT’s state maintenance engineer and chief safety and operations officer. “Some potholes have to be repaired multiple times because of additional rain. The temporary repairs are not holding. We ask motorists to please be patient with us as the repairs are being done.”

She noted that her agency’s repair crews address the deepest potholes first and that until roadway temperatures rise and remain above freezing, repairs are made using a cold asphalt mix. She added that MoDOT spends approximately $15 million a year on pothole patching operations for the 34,000 miles of road it maintains.

“However, this is a short-term repair,” she stressed. “The long-term fix, a hot asphalt mix, isn’t effective until temperatures are warm for a prolonged period of time.”

The Ohio Department of Transportation noted in February that it had already used 2,574 tons of asphalt to repair potholes; up from 1,892 tons at the same point in 2018.

“Our crews have spent more than 39,000 hours patching potholes this winter,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks in February 1 statement.

He added that potholes are a “common nuisance,” particularly when the freeze/thaw cycle weakens the pavement. This happens when water seeps into cracks in the pavement, then expands as it freezes. When temperatures warm up, and the ice melts, the pavement contracts, allowing even more moisture in to freeze and thaw.

“Add traffic on top and the pavement will eventually fail, creating a pothole,” Marchbanks said. “Roadways with a high volume of traffic are particularly prone to pothole formation.”

The Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration has also stepped up its pothole repair work, noting in a March 7 statement that with “saturated grounds” from record-setting precipitation from 2018 into 2019, and the freeze/thaw cycle that is occurring during this transitional time of the year, “potholes are popping up everywhere.”


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The Nation

Midwestern state DOTs contending with major flood damage



Flooding in Nebraska earlier this month closed as much as 1,500 miles of roadway at one time, with many roads and bridges wiped out, (Courtesy: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Capt. Ryan Hignight)

A “bomb cyclone” that struck the Midwest earlier this month, causing major flooding across Nebraska and parts of Iowa and Missouri, is responsible for more than $1 billion in property losses, as well as damage to highways, roads and bridges, according to reports from those states.

The Nebraska Department of Transportation stated that more than 1,500 miles of roads were closed at the height of the flooding on March 18, with 15 major highway bridges completely washed out or severely damaged as a result of the high waters.

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported that as of March 20 more than 80 percent was under emergency declaration orders, including 77 counties, four tribal nations and five special government areas such as unincorporated townships.

“This past week will forever be remembered for the historic, devastating flooding our state experienced,” Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said in a March 19 statement. “In scope of reach, we believe it is the most widespread natural disaster in our state’s history.”

The flooding, caused by heavy rains occurring simultaneously with melting snow, was exacerbated by chunks of ice swept along by the waters that damaged buildings and infrastructure, NEMA noted.

Nebraska National Guard helicopter crews resorted to dropping hay to cattle stranded by the high waters to ensure they didn’t starve.

The Midwest flooding also triggered an emergency declaration by the Federal Railroad Administration on March 19.

“The large amounts of snow and ice resulting from the region’s recent winter weather have melted and swelled rivers, creeks and other inland bodies of water throughout the region,” the agency said in its statement. “Historic flooding throughout the region [witnessed] rivers rising to historic levels in over 40 locations, causing power outages and breached dams and levees.”

The Iowa Department of Transportation closed sections of Interstate 29 and established detours on March 15 in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Transportation and other public agencies, and placed restrictions on parts of Interstate 680, as well, due to flood damage.

Missouri DOT also issued a reminder to motorists on March 20 not to drive around road closure signs as “flooded roadways can be more dangerous than they appear because the road may have washed away or collapsed under the water. In addition, the water may be deeper than it appears and can hide hazards such as sharp objects, electrical wires or chemicals.”

Several state DOTs have been dealing with the impact of winter-related flooding and landslides this year.

On March 20, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency in 37 counties that suffered serious highway damage following severe weather that began back in February.

“Many of these roads are in dangerous condition, impacting the safety of Ohio’s drivers,” the governor said in a statement. “By declaring a state of emergency, Ohio can now access federal funding to help with the unplanned costs to repair the highways damaged by heavy rain and flooding.”

The emergency proclamation will allow the Ohio DOT and local governments to access federal emergency relief funds.

For example, the Federal Highway Administration provided $10 million Emergency Repair, or ER, funding to the Tennessee DOT March 15 to cope with roadway damage caused by “historical rainfall” in 72 counties in February. The Ohio DOT received $4.5 million in ER money from the agency the same day to help repair State Route 376 after a landslide caused by heavy rains forced it to close in late February.

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