BEIJING — Thousands of coal trucks and other vehicles were backed up for miles on a highway in northern China on Friday, the latest in a series of monster traffic jams that have plagued the overloaded road since construction began on a parallel route earlier this summer.
Police redirected traffic and reminded drivers to stay alert in the gridlock along on the Beijing-Tibet highway, an official with the Jining district traffic police in Inner Mongolia said Friday. Like many Chinese bureaucrats, he refused to give his name.
State television broadcaster CCTV reported that about 10,000 trucks were stuck in the jam. The exact length of the gridlock was not clear, but one of the worst stretches was a 75-mile (120-kilometer) span of highway between Inner Mongolia's Zhouzi and Xinghe counties, media reports said.
The traffic jams are part of continuing congestion along the Beijing-Tibet highway that began escalating in mid-August – fueled by road construction on the nearby Beijing-Xinjiang highway and the opening up of coal mines in the northwest.
Trucks hauling coal from regions like Inner Mongolia to industrial and urban centers on the coast are a major contributor to China's overloaded highway system. Most of the country's power plants are fueled by coal, vital for the booming economy that recently surpassed Japan's in size and now second only to that of the U.S.
The latest snarl was triggered by a traffic accident on Wednesday in Hebei province adjacent to Beijing, effectively halting traffic headed east from Inner Mongolia, the Beijing News reported. Details of the accident were not clear.
The problem was further compounded by drivers who fell asleep at the wheel while waiting for traffic to move and difficulties restarting the engines of some large trucks, the report said.
A CCTV reporter arrived in the outskirts of Beijing on Friday morning after setting off from the coal-rich city of Ordos two days earlier – about a 400-mile (640-kilometer) journey. He would likely have been riding in traffic lanes reserved for passenger vehicles and traveling faster than the coal trucks making up the majority of the gridlock on the highway.
Last month, some trucks were stuck for up to five days on the Beijing-Tibet highway with drivers on the worst-hit stretches passing the time sitting in the shade of their immobilized vehicles, playing cards and sleeping on the asphalt.
Associated Press researchers Zhao Liang and Xi Yue contributed to this report.