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Activists Push for Tougher Truck Regulation

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Several safety groups urged the federal government to toughen rules for big-rig and truck companies, stating that more than 100 people a week in this country are killed in large truck crashes, according to an Associated Press article posted in the Houston Chronicle.

The article states that Wyoming, Arkansas and Oklahoma are the deadliest states for big truck crashes while Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut are the safest, according to The Truck Safety Coalition. California saw a moderate increase in truck crashes – from 378 in 2001 to 428 in 2005. The group released state rankings, based on the number of fatalities per 100,000 residents during 2005, the most recent year with complete figures.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration “has failed miserably,” said Joan Claybrook, chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, which is part of the Truck Safety Coalition.

“It is shortchanging safety for the productivity and economic interests of the trucking industry.”

In 1999, when the agency was created, 5,380 people died in crashes with big trucks. Deaths in crashes of large trucks numbered 5,212 in 2005, plus 114,000 injured. Large trucks account for 3 percent of registered vehicles but 12-13 percent of traffic fatalities.

Victims say they are completely put off by the agency’s lack of action. Jane Mathis, of St. Augustine, Fla., complained that the motor carrier agency is proposing to require on-board electronic recorders that monitor hours of service on only about 465 of the more than 702,000 registered interstate motor carriers.

“This absurd proposal shows that the administration is not really interested in reducing hours-of-service violations and stopping truck drivers from regularly falsifying their paper logbooks,” said Mathis, whose son David, 23, and his bride of five days were killed in 2004 when a Winn-Dixie tractor trailer driver fell asleep at the wheel and rear-ended their car.

“No load of freight is worth a human life,” said Daphne Izer, of Lisbon, Maine. She founded ‘Parents Against Tired Truckers’ after her 17-year-old son, Jeff, and three friends were killed on the Maine Turnpike in 1993 when a Wal-Mart truck driver fell asleep at the wheel of his big rig and ran over their car.

Our hearts go out to these victims. And unfortunately, at Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys, we see hundreds of these cases. Innocent victims and their families pay the price for the negligence and greed of companies and giant corporations that are always trying to make a quick buck and cut corners where they can.

The other victims of negligent and illegal trucking practices are the truck drivers themselves. Many drivers have told me, off the record, that they are forced to comply with their bosses instructions to violate the law with regard to hours driven and rest periods. They have told me if they do not comply, they will be fired and unable to find another trucking job. Then, if an accident happens, they are the ones held to be at fault.

The federal agencies involved must take action against trucking companies that allow their drivers to fudge their time sheets and work longer hours than they should. The feds should put in monitoring devices in all trucks to make sure such a thing never, ever happens. That would be the proactive thing to do, not wait for some violator to take out more innocent lives on the highway.

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