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Maine 2018 highway fatalities among lowest in 60 years

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AUGUSTA, Maine — Despite concerns about driver texting and inattention, the number of highway deaths in Maine in 2018 was among the lowest in 60 years, officials say.

As of New Year’s Day, there were 140 deaths on Maine roads over the past year, which is 33 lower than the 173 recorded in the previous year, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

The lowest number of fatalities was 131 in 2014, and there were 136 fatalities in 2011. The largest number of deaths was 276 in 1970.

It’s unclear why the numbers were relatively low.

Part of the reason is likely that more people are surviving crashes thanks to new safety features in cars. There were also significant reductions in the number deaths of pedestrians and younger drivers between 16 and 19, said Lauren Stewart, director of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

In 2018, the state launched a program focusing on pedestrian safety that included public service announcements, public meetings and extra law enforcement after the numbers pedestrians hit by cars spiked, Stewart said. It appears to have helped, she said.

Newswide, the number of highway deaths was down in 2017, and estimates for the first half of 2018 suggested another decrease, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

But those numbers vary from state to state, Stewart said, and speeding, impaired driving and distracted driving all remain concerns.

In particular, distracted driving is something motorists see on nearly a daily basis.

“When there is a reduction in fatal crashes, it is a wonderful thing. But that doesn’t mean we still don’t have a big distraction problem that we need to address. People are doing it every day. Some days they’re crashing. On others they’re getting away with it,” she said.

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Driver who aided woman after wrong-way crash named Highway Angel of the Year

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EpicVue CEO Lance Platt, left, and recording artist Lindsay Lawler present Brian Snell of Pottle’s Transportation with the Highway Angel of the Year award during the Truckload Carriers Association’s 81st annual convention. (The Trucker: KLINT LOWRY)

LAS VEGAS — For most people, there are maybe only a handful of instances in their lives that call for an act of heroism.

“We’d all like to believe that if the situation presented itself, each of us would be able to step up and offer assistance to others in their time of need,” Truckload Carriers Association Chairman Dan Doran said March 12 at the general session of the closing day of the 81st annual TCA convention.

With as much time as professional truck drivers spend out on the open road, they are more likely than most folks to come across fellow travelers who need help. And every year, there are several stories of drivers who step up to offer their assistance.

In 1997, TCA and corporate sponsor EpicVue created the Highway Angels program “to improve the public’s image of the trucking industry by highlighting positive stories of professional truck drivers who display exemplary acts of kindness, courtesy, and courage while on the job,” Doran said.

Highway Angels are recognized throughout the year. “EpicVue is honored to recognize these incredible professional truck drivers, who put themselves sometimes in great danger to help a fellow truck driver, a motorist, and even a small child who may be wandering alone in the dark,” said EpicVue CEO Lance Platt.

One of these drivers is then chosen for special recognition at the annual TCA convention as the Highway Angel of the Year. This year’s Highway Angel of the Year Brian Snell, a regional trainer with Bangor, Maine-based Pottle’s Transportation. Platt was joined by recording artist Lindsay Lawler in presenting Snell with the award.

Lawler, the official spokesperson for the Highway Angel program and whose song “Highway Angel” is a tribute to the spirit of the program and to the drivers who personify that spirit, said Snell “is passionate about what he does, humble, and an overall brilliant example of what this program aims to highlight.”

A brief video prior to the presentation described the early-morning rescue for which Snell was being honored. After the ceremony, he recalled the incident in his own words.

Snell was driving on I-495 in Massachusetts at about 2:15 a.m. on June 8, 2018, when he saw the headlights of a vehicle driving the wrong way up ahead before it hit something and spun out to a stop. Snell stopped his truck in the middle of the road, blocking oncoming traffic from the crashed car.

As other motorists stopped, Snell got out of his truck to assess the situation. The car’s front end was mangled, and the woman behind the wheel was unconscious.

Snell is no stranger to emergency situations. He joined the Marines in 1989, but an injury sustained in boot camp curtailed his military career. After his discharge in 1992, he spent nearly five years as a paramedic in Nashua, New Hampshire, near his hometown of Merrimack, before becoming a sheriff’s department rescue worker.

“I used to do a lot of high-angle rescue work,” Snell said. “It’s rope work. We were up on ledges, mountain work and all that.”

Even in his spare time, Snell has done “a ton of volunteering,” he said, including rescue work on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington. At 6,288 feet, Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast and part of the Appalachian Trail. It is popular with hikers, cyclists and gliders, but weather conditions can turn treacherous quickly.

“And when the World Trade Center went down I wound up going to Ground Zero working search and rescue down there.”

Snell spent five days as a volunteer at Ground Zero “literally digging in the dirt and going through the pile itself,” he said. He was among the rescue workers who became casualties of the attack after the fact. Part of his diaphragm became paralyzed and he lost a lung due to the prolonged exposure to the particulate matter in the air.

“Obviously, after 911, law enforcement was out because of the disability with my lung,” Snell said.

Snell was already on his way to becoming a full-time professional truck driver. “My grandfather for years told me to get my truck license,” Snell said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to be a truck driver.’” But turning an economic downturn he had taken his grandfather’s advice and had started what had been a gradual transition from emergency work into trucking.

In those early morning hours last June, Snell’s professional worlds came together when he came to the driver’s assistance.

“The car was on fire,” he said. “I put the flames out with the fire extinguisher. Then I started working on her to make sure she was conscious and breathing and all that.”

While he was doing that, he heard one of the other motorists who had stopped to help yelling some distance away that they “couldn’t get in.” That’s when Snell realized that another vehicle had been involved in the crash.

“I thought she’d just bounced off the guardrail,” Snell said, but she had collided head-on with another car. He went over to the second car and saw the driver, a 32-year-old man, was dead.

There was a dog inside the car, and Snell had to smash a window to get to it. As it happened, the first officer on the scene was a K-9 officer, so Snell left the dog in his care then he returned to the first car to help rescue workers extract the woman.

He said when Highway Angel organizers first tried to contact him about being an honoree, he didn’t return their phone calls. “I don’t do what I do to be recognized, you know what I mean?” he said. “And finally my company got involved and said, ‘You got to call back.’

Being named a Highway Angel was an honor, he said, and then when he heard he had been named Highway Angel of the Year, he was “ecstatic,” but he admitted he’s had mixed emotions because of the circumstances around the incident.

“It’s a very bittersweet award to accept,” Snell said. “I’m literally being honored for saving someone who killed somebody.” The woman, who was intoxicated at the time of the crash, has been charged with vehicular homicide.

“Hopefully, she changes her ways,” he said.

The Highway Angel of the Year was created to honor the person who best embodies the spirit of the Highway Angel program. Snell, 50, said he’s been doing rescue work, professionally and as a volunteer, since he was on the American Red Cross Disaster Team in high school.

He’s even delivered a baby along the roadside. Putting yourself out there for your fellow human beings is simply part of the values by which he was raised.

“My whole family is community driven,” he said. “The Lord has always told everybody he wants us to be the Good Samaritan, and I don’t pass that up. Anybody I can help, I try to do anything I can for them.”

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Report shows states have introduced 185 bills to boost transportation investment

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The ARTBA-TIAC report showed that mileage-based user fee studies are being considered in eight states. (FOTOSEARCH)

WASHINGTON — A new 43-page report issued by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s Transportation Investment Advocacy Center indicates 37 states have introduced 185 bills aimed at boosting transportation investment in the first two months of 2019, with 21 of those states proposing to increase one or more types of fuel taxes, according to an article  in the Journal of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Of those 21 states, 10 included altering or creating a variable-rate tax that fluctuates based on external factors such as the Consumer Price Index, average wholesale price of motor fuel, or other formulas.

Continuing a trend seen in recent years, the ARTBA-TIAC report indicates 16 states are introducing electric vehicle fees to help ensure all vehicles that create wear and tear on roads pay for their share of maintenance, with 10 of those states including an additional registration fee for hybrid vehicles.

Similar legislation is being pushed at the federal level by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo. They re-introduced a bill on Feb. 6 that Sen. Barrasso initially proffered last October in the waning days of the 115th Congress.

That legislation seeks to end electric vehicle federal tax credits while imposing a fee on operators of all alternatively fueled vehicles – be they powered by electricity, natural gas, hydrogen, etc. – that will be collected over the next 10 years and paid into the Highway Trust Fund.

The ARTBA-TIAC report added that mileage-based user fee studies – also known as a road user charge or a vehicle miles traveled tax – are being considered in eight states, while four states have introduced legislation to implement tolling.

So far, of the legislation introduced in January or February, ARTBA said 19 measures have advanced beyond one legislative chamber, with one bill – an electric vehicle registration fee increase in Wyoming – signed into law. Meanwhile, Arkansas and Alabama signed fuel tax increases into law this month.

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Firefighting’s Finest Moving & Storage named top independent mover

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Offering a full range of services including moving, packing and storage has allowed Firefighting’s Finest to grow to four locations, with over 160 employees, a sizable fleet with warehouse facilities, and military approval as a TSP. (Courtesy: AMSA)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Firefighting’s Finest Moving & Storage, based in Fort Worth, Texas, has been named the nation’s top independent moving company for 2018 by the American Moving & Storage Association.

The company has earned the Independent Mover of the Year Award for exceptional business growth, strong customer satisfaction and award-winning service.

This award, also known as “the Indy,” reflects the association’s and the industry’s commitment to outstanding performance among independent movers as demonstrated through innovative business methods and practices, community involvement, customer service practices, employee relations, and operations that address a current and compelling social or economic issue, according to Scott Michael, AMSA president and CEO.

The recipient is selected by a panel of industry experts.

“Firefighting’s Finest Moving & Storage is honored to receive this prestigious award. It reflects our team’s hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence. The true desire ‘to serve’ shines through with this incredible achievement,” said Derrick Potter, president of Firefighting’s Finest Moving & Storage.

Since opening in 2001, Firefighting’s Finest has earned an impeccable reputation, providing customers with an exceptional, service-first moving experience, Potter said.

“Our focus on customer service provided by well-trained crews has allowed for continued growth, while our commitment to excellence has ensured that the growth is well managed, and quality is not lost,” he said.

Still owned and operated by military veterans and off-duty professional firefighters, Firefighting’s Finest’s commitment to serve customers and the community is what sets them apart.

The company’s teams of professional movers are carefully selected to ensure that a commitment to quality and service is shared by them, and that the company’s vision is the team’s vision—an exceptional move exceeding expectations on every move, Potter said.

Offering a full range of services including moving, packing and storage has allowed Firefighting’s Finest to grow to four locations, with over 160 employees, a sizable fleet with warehouse facilities, and military approval as a TSP.

Potter said Firefighting’s Finest Moving and Storage’s commitment to serve has led the company to earning many awards, including the prestigious Pro Patria Award, Small For Business of the Year Award in 2016 from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, and several Torch Awards from the BBB for Marketing Ethics. Firefighting’s Finest is also proud to be the first ever Mover of the Year awarded by Move For Hunger.

“Firefighting’s Finest has set a high bar for excellence in the industry with an outstanding track record of success. They are well-deserving of this high honor that puts them up there among the elite moving and storage companies nationwide,” Michael said.

More information about the AMSA Awards at .

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