Trucking advocates say driving fatigue has to be stopped

Trucking advocates say driving fatigue has to be stopped

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- There is a push to make the roads safer after a deadly wreck in Republic on Wednesday.  A California man is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter after police say he caused a chain reaction wreck.

That crash killed Lawrence Coan, 65, and Corey Gresham, 41, when they were rear-ended and became sandwiched between two big rigs on U.S. 60.   According to trucking advocates, it's a situation that could have been prevented.

"It has been the number one safety problem in the trucking industry every year for the last 30 years," said lawyer and truck driver safety advocate Dan Ramsdell.

He says driver fatgiue happens too often.

"There are roughly 110,000 people each year that are killed or injured in crashes with big trucks."

Ramsdell says more than a third are caused by driver fatigue.

"You have inattentiveness, you have lane changes, you have failure to slow, you've got all kinds of little issues that each can have a fatigue base to it," Ramsdell said.

In the case of the recent wreck in Republic, the driver, Lei Sun, had driven over the legal limit -- 70 hours in an eight-day period as regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  Records from the FMCSA show the company Sun worked for had marks against it. Out of the last four inspections in a 24-month period, half the drivers were deemed out of service.

"That means that he was declared by a federal enforcement officer to be illegally behind the wheel for any one of a number of reasons, one of which is fatigue driving -- that's the most frequent one," Ramsdell said.

Over at Prime Trucking in Springfield, safety is a serious issue.

"We spend a lot of money to make certain we are as safe as we can possibly be," said Prime Trucking Director of Safety Don Lacy.

One way the company curbs driver fatigue is electronic logging. They use the electronic systems instead of written logs that can be altered.

"They were easy to cheat on. When you go to electronic logs, that takes all of that away," Lacy said.

Even if a driver stays within the legal limits of hours, fatigue can still happen. Prime finds other ways to fight back.

"We have a system called OnGuard.  It actually sends a warning to the driver if he was approaching particularly a stopped vehicle. Then it applies the brakes."

Ramsdell says not every company operates like Prime, and driver fatigue continues to be a major problem on the road.

"The whole problem is greed based," he said.

To a point, Prime agrees.

"It's done for money. Of course people get fatigued. They make mistakes. They have accidents," Lacy said.

A good starting point to fixing the problem, both say, is changing the way the industry does business.

"Electronic on-board recorders should be mandatory in this business," said Lacy.

"The companies actually made more money by complying with the law. That's a pretty strong message," Ramsdell said.

Ramsdell goes further.  He believes, until the companies are held legally responsible for their drivers, nothing will truly change.

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