Drivers concerned about number of trucks on Tallinn-Pärnu highway

Trucks on the Tallinn-Pärnu highway.
Trucks on the Tallinn-Pärnu highway. Source: ERR

Drivers of passenger cars are increasingly worried about the number of trucks on the Tallinn-Pärnu-Ikla highway, which causes dangerous situations every day. Drivers who frequent the highway say that a head-on collision between two trucks this Wednesday was a long time coming.

Tiina Maria Araja has been driving between Tallinn and Riga every week for the past decade and says that the number of trucks on the road has been growing steadily in that time, while road construction has hardly kept pace. Because trucks tend to drive slower than other road users, this slows traffic flow and leads to drivers of passenger cars attempting dangerous overtaking maneuvers.

When two trucks collided head-on near Sauga, Pärnu County and Araja was once again on the road to Latvia this Wednesday, she decided to count how many trucks were driving in convoys.

"I began to realize that a convoy of six trucks is rather the norm now, and I counted two convoys of 11 trucks with no passenger cars in between them this Wednesday. This means there must be hundreds of trucks on the road every single day, and in both directions. The highway is clearly too small for this kind of traffic. It is too narrow for international traffic," the driver suggested.

Even though the Tallinn-Pärnu highway is part of the international European route E67 or the Via Baltica, it remains a simple 1+1 road for 100 kilometers between Ääsmäe and Sauga in Estonia. This causes drivers to try and get ahead of traffic before the section starts or attempt dangerous overtaking maneuvers once on the narrower section, which creates high-risk traffic situations.

The most typical of these dangerous situations is when trucks attempt to overtake other trucks. The difference in speed of the overtaking truck and the one being passed is not great and can create nervous moments for drivers behind the two heavy vehicles. I have never seen the police regulating truck traffic. The convoys are not being broken up," Araja said.

The police told ERR that if they receive a call reporting a potentially dangerous situation, they will respond and head out to regulate traffic.

"It is the busiest highway [in Estonia]. There are trucks on the road, while I would not describe the situation as worrying. If we see convoys forming, we pull over the lead vehicle and ask the driver why they're driving slowly. It may have nothing to do with the driver. The vehicle might simply have a lower speed limiter setting," said Toomas Koronev, head of the North Prefecture's traffic group.

The police feel it is up to the Transport Administration to improve the situation. For example, by prohibiting truck traffic on crowded main highways and diverting it to secondary roads, which has been done for special transports, or by introducing such limitations at certain times.

"We do not have any alternative routes for main European road connections today. It is clear that north-south transit has to take the Via Baltica. It makes no sense to divert heavy traffic to secondary roads or those maintained by local governments," said Priit Sauk, director of the Transport Administration.

"There were attempts years ago to have trucks move at specific times, I recall, while this is neither sensible nor allowed in terms of equal treatment. We are forced to accept the situation today where all road users have the right to use them," he added.

Estonia has agreed on the European level to develop modern main highways by 2030. According to Priit Sauk, this is hardly more than a theoretical possibility at this point as projected road construction funding is not enough to build four-lane highways from Tallinn to Tartu, Pärnu and Narva. EU funding will help the administration construct 40 kilometers of four-lane roads in the coming years, while future calls for proposals come with a 50-percent cost-sharing component.

"We have an agreement in principle with ruling politicians that if we can secure the EU funding, the government will come up with its 50 percent share," Sauk said.


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Editor: Marko Tooming, Marcus Turovski

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