Grain Trucks Could Cause Tricky Traveling

SEPTEMBER 23, 2004 -- Posted at: 10:30pm CDT

JONESBORO, AR - Traffic congestion on Dan Avenue in Jonesboro is being caused by semi trucks and drivers who are waiting to dump their load of rice at Riceland Foods. The secondary reason -- you could blame it on mother nature, but Riceland managers said they've got the crop caravan under control.

"I don't believe I've ever parked down the road this far before," said Steve Worrell, a farmer from Missouri.

Little rain and dry soil is allowing rice farmers, like Worrell, to be much more efficient in the fields --speeding up their harvest time drastically.

Worrell added, "Everybody's getting all of their crops out, which is a good thing, but it just kind of makes a bottleneck at the grain elevator."

The backup was at its' worst Wednesday morning.

"We had some what of a surprise with more trucks than we anticipated at one time," explained Freddie Gahr, Riceland Foods' Jonesboro District Grain Dryer Manager. "They did backup somewhat on Dan Avenue, which caused some problems in the construction zone, which we definitely don't want."

Gahr now has drivers pull their trucks into a construction area on Riceland property to help reduce the long line on Dan Avenue.

"If we get full there, we have a staging area about a mile out that we have access to," Gahr added.

A contract security worker conducts the flow of traffic from three different directions -- up to 430 trucks moving non-stop for 11 hours each day during harvest. Drivers wait on average about 90 minutes to get to where the rice is tested.

"It gets a little tiresome just sitting around and waiting. Hurry up and wait," Bill Welch, a Bono farmer, admitted.

Welch knows the backup could be much worse.

"I remember years ago, I've been backed out on 63 before, even on down 63," said Welch.

Most farmers will be waiting in line for another week. Freddie Gahr said they should have a smooth path, but with trains, traffic and trucks lining the side of the road, there's always a possibility the crop caravan could get congested again. Farmers said they'll be patient.

Steve Worrell said, "Riceland is a good facility. They're doing the best they can to get us through the line, and we appreciate it."

Truck drivers start lining up between three and four in the morning, but Riceland's gates don't open until eight. The gates close at seven in the evening.