Truckers pause in Grand Forks as roads worsen

Oscar Rios, a trucker from McAllen, Texas, clears snow from his taillights as he waits out a winter storm in Grand Forks on Friday, Oct. 11. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Oscar Rios was headed -- keyword “was” -- to Denver, Colo., when a snowstorm dumped inches upon inches of sleet and snow in North Dakota.

That meant the 54-year old trucker from McAllen, Texas, holed up in the cab of his semi on Friday afternoon, chatting with his wife over the phone and watching Colombian crime-comedy "The Good Bandit" on a tablet while snow accumulated at a Grand Forks truckstop. Rios hopped out of the cab every so often to brush snow off the trailer or to head into the stop’s convenience store.

He said he plans to get back on the road on Saturday, Oct. 12., and get his shipment of fiberglass to Denver in time for a Monday delivery.

Truckers themselves often bear the financial brunt of a delay, but Rios said he wasn’t too worried about the temporary setback.

“It’s a good day for me,” he said. “Because Texas is hot. I like it when it snows.”


A row of semis lined up alongside one another in the stop’s parking lot and a few doors down, so to speak, from Rios was Bodo Graf, a 56-year-old driver who’s originally from Germany. He was a trucker in Europe for 14 years before moving across the Atlantic in 2007.

Graf had been stopped at the same truckstop as Rios for about 45 minutes to an hour when he spoke to the Herald, he said. And he, too, wasn’t particularly worried about the delay -- he gets paid for the miles he drives.

Graf, who asked to not be photographed, said he hopes to finish his drive to Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Saturday afternoon.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation closed portions of Interstate 29, Highway 2 and Interstate 94. The department has issued a no-travel advisory for almost all of the northeastern and central parts of the state.

On Friday afternoon, meteorologists predicted the worst of the storm had yet to arrive. All told, 1 to 3 feet of snow is expected to fall around Devils Lake and more than a foot is expected in Grand Forks. Such adverse weather negatively impacts the movement of products.

Forty-six percent of North Dakota communities receive their goods exclusively by truck, said Mike Gerhardt, the executive vice president of the North Dakota Motor Carriers Association.

And trucking companies, said Minnesota Trucking Association President John Hausladen, are constantly paying attention to the weather.

“Rain, ice, wind and snow are all bad for trucks, so fleets will monitor the weather and make decisions to either wait, or not load, or ask the driver to just pull over in a safe place,” he said. “But no load is worth a life.”


Herald reporter Tess Williams contributed to this report.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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