Wednesday near Charlotte NC a Swift semi ran off the road and hit a bridge. Watch this two minute news video that cites statistics about Swift, a large national carrier. These two deaths are numbers 56 and 57 for the truck company in the past two years. Other articles I’ve found say that Swift has been cited over 4000 times during the past two years for driving violations.
I don’t know how much more has to happen before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stops rating them as acceptable.
As many of you know I work with the Truck Safety Coalition, and we’ve been fighting to lower the maximum number of hours a driver can drive before having to take an extended rest break. It’s an uphill battle, with small victories later repealed by legislation backed by the deep pockets of the American Trucking Association which is out to maximize truck company profits. A news report yesterday said fatigue of the driver was a likely cause of this particular crash. He fell asleep behind the wheel at 4:30 in the morning.
So. Two more people are dead. This time they weren’t in a passenger car, they were in the cab of the truck that crashed.
In stories like this the news focuses on the traffic delays or the cost of repairing the infrastructure. I can tell you from personal experience the families of the two deceased don’t care about traffic delays or bridge repair today. As they move forward and figure out what caused their loss they’ll learn what so many other families have learned. That driving up to 11 hours a day is unsafe. That it doesn’t make any sense. That people die because they are pushed to work longer hours than in any other industry. It’s a complicated issue.
Five hundred truck drivers die in crashes each year. Yesterday two gave their lives just trying to make a living.
Sometimes I think that fighting the ATA on hours of service rules is useless. That we’re just playing defense, sticking our fingers in an deteriorating dike. That our time is better spent on issues we have a chance of winning. And then two more people die and I realize we have to keep fighting on all the issues.
Even hours of service.