Interest Heightened about Safety in the Trucking Industry

Article excerpt

Similar to a trend in Oklahoma, interest in safety in the trucking industry is rising in Atlanta, Ga. where deregulation is being credited with increases in truck-related traffic accidents.

In the Atlanta area last month, police reported 13 accidents involving tractor-trailers, resulting in vast traffic jams, several injuries, and at least two deaths, according to a report.

In all, 16 deaths as a result of truck-related accidents have been reported this year on the freeways in the seven-county metropolitan area. up from 12 in all of last year.

State officials, alarmed by the trend, are convening a conference in Atlanta to discuss solutions.

Across the nation, there is concern among police, experts on safety and insurance, and officials of the trucking industry over a rise in accidents, along with increases in safety and traffic violations, involving trucks.

Partly a result of the deregulation of the trucking industry in 1980, not only are there more trucks but also much larger trucks plying the nation's roads and interstate highways.

Safety experts also say that as competition has increased among trucking companies and independents, so has the tendency among truckers to save time and money by ignoring speed laws, cutting corners on vehicle maintenance schedules, and circumventing rules on the number of hours drivers may work without resting.

``We have a situation where there are more trucks on the road, and more drivers overdriving the road conditions,'' said Archie Burnham, the chief of the traffic engineering and safety section of the Georgia Transportation Department.

Nationwide, the number of accidents involving interstate trucks rose 23.4 percent in 1985, to 39,030, from 31,628 in 1983, according to a recent report by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Meanwhile, the number of truck-related fatalities grew 11.3 percent, to 4,528 in 1985, from 4,065 in 1982, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Injuries reported in truck-related accidents also rose. The Federal Highway Administriaton's Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety reported 29,149 injuries in 1984, up from 25,779 in 1982.

It is a measure of the amount of national concern with the issue that Congress passed legislation in October that, for the first time, sets national standards for licensing commercial truck and bus drivers, including a requirement that states require them to pass driving tests or the states risk losing a portion of their federal highway funds. According to the Insurance Institute, 19 states allow drivers who hold only general commercial licenses to operate the largest tractor rigs without any special road test or training.

In most of these states, including Oklahoma, drivers who hold the general commercial license are immediately allowed to operate a large 18-wheel truck without having to demonstrate their ability or show that they have been trained.

Twenty-six states require special tests or employer certification before they will issue the licenses required to drive big trucks, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Five other states require written tests but no road tests, the institute said.

The institute also said that one federal study showed that 85 percent of all truck drivers involved in accidents had never received any formal training as commercial drivers.

The federal legislation would also make it illegal for drivers to hold licenses issued by different states, a device the police say truckers routinely use to avoid suspensions. By presenting different licenses when stopped they can avoid piling up enough violations in any one state to risk suspension.

According to congressional testimony, as many as 30 percent of all truck drivers carry multiple licenses for that purpose. …