Tuesday 13 January 2009

Dangerous truck drivers

Highway driving is becoming more and more dangerous due to the amount of vehicles on the road today. We simply have over crowded highways in many locations. For example, in the United States, nearly 50,000 people die each year on the roadways and, according to recent statistics, over 22 million are injured. As most of these are classified as “accidents,” what’s ironic is that driving accidents are preventable. Driving autos along our highways, roads and interstates are dangerous enough but add something as large and heavy as an 18-wheeler, and without the proper skills . . . we all know the carnage that can be left behind.

Because truck drivers are usually paid by the mile, they have an incentive to get to their destination quickly, unload, and get back on the highway with another load. This can lead to speeding, violations of the hours of service regulations and resulting fatigue and tailgating. When you combine tailgating with other factors such as bad weather, tire blowouts, emergencies and road rage, it is surprising there are not more accidents.

Truck driver negligence is a major contributing factor to many tragic collisions. There are a number of negligent actions on the part of truck drivers that can lead to devastating accidents which could have been prevented had the driver followed safety guidelines.

Trucking is a very dangerous profession, about 600 drivers a year die in highway accidents. Driving certain types of rigs like tankers and flatbeds is probably the most dangerous major occupations in the country. About 55% of all class 8 (semis) driver fatalities occur in rollover accidents. Another 10% occur in fuel oil fires.
The danger big rigs pose to American drivers is growing. More than 5,000 people are killed every year in crashes with big trucks on U.S. roads.

A dangerous minority of truck drivers sometimes take chances that result in dangerous and often deadly consequences. Some are discovered driving longer hours than allowed, under the influence of drugs or alcohol or carrying heavier; or unbalanced loads, that sometimes create dangerous hazards on the road.

The most lethal state in the country, measured by truck crash fatalities per 100,000 population; is Wyoming, followed by Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Georgia, according to data released by a coalition of safety groups.

In Texas, which leads the United States in the number of deadly big-rig collisions, one out of every 10 accidents involving an 18-wheeler turns deadly.

Making improper lane changes

The most dangerous driving maneuver while on the interstate or highway would be --- Changing Lanes. We all know about the “blind spots” that big rigs have . . . how many times have we “looked” once and saw nothing coming, then we look away for a second, then, as we begin to change lanes, suddenly there is a car or a truck right beside us that wasn’t there a few seconds before? When so many drivers are traveling at 70+ mph, one can appear “out of nowhere” within a blink of an eye.

Truckers not watching where they are going

In December 2007, a trucker in England was watching a movie on his laptop computer that was situated on the dashboard in his cab while driving a 38-ton lorry along a highway erratically. He later claimed at his trial that he was map-reading. That is also dangerous when the vehicle is still in motion. He pleaded guilty to driving dangerously at Penrith Magistrates' Court on August 22, 2008.

In June 2008, a British truck driver who caused a fatal accident the previous March while engaged in a hands-free mobile phone call; received a four year jail sentence. The 49-year-old was having a conversation with his mother for more than 20 minutes just before his fatal collision with a vehicle ahead of him. At his trial, the Court heard that he concentrated on the conversation to the point of being ‘oblivious to all around him’ including the highway ahead of him. While he was talking with his mommy, his truck ran into the back of a Transit van without braking --- killing its passenger, a father-of-two.

Sleepy truck drivers

Many truck drivers find themselves always in a hurry to deliver their cargo and instead of taking a require rest, they forgo it and keep on driving in hopes that they will get to their destination all in one piece.

Truck crash victims and safety advocates highlighted the dangers posed by tired truckers --- a major source of truck crashes --- and called on Congress to resist pressure from the trucking industry to codify a dangerous rule that permits big rig drivers to stay on the road for too many hours before pulling over to sleep. Large trucks are rolling time bombs on our highways, with tired truckers allowed to work 14 and 16 hours a day without stopping to take a rest.

Truck stops are often filled with big-rig drivers taking a break from the road. And most drivers agree that getting even just a little tired out on the highway is an issue - and a potential problem - that they take very seriously.

Now, an experimental device may help truck drivers from dozing off behind the wheel. The system uses infrared light to determine when drivers are too tired to be driving. The Driver Fatigue Monitor measures how ‘heavy’ eyes are becoming by monitoring the eyelids. If the eyes are closed for three or four seconds several times in a minute, then an alarm sounds. Drivers can install the fatigue monitor every time they hit the road. Many drivers agree that using the alarm is well-worth lowering the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. A sleep alarm would be very helpful because it could give drivers \enough of a jolt where you can start looking for a place to pull over, because if you are that tired, you need to get off the road.

Back in the 1970s, I was driving east in Oklahoma late at night and since I had been driving for at least twelve hours, I was pretty tired. I pulled off the road and got into the back seat and went to sleep. A couple of hours later, a highway patrolman pulled over and woke me and told me that I couldn’t park my car on the side of the road. (it was ten feet from the paved highway) He told that there was a rest area further along the highway about twenty miles from where we were. I told him that I needed his name. When he asked why, I replied, “Obviously, I am too tired to drive and if I attempt to drive to the next rest area, I will probably fall asleep and hit an oncoming car. When they search my body, they will find a note on it in which I will have written that I drove while I was sleepy because you told me too. My family will need your name so that they can sue you personally for the millions that they hope to get from you and your police force.” He immediately responded with, “Well Sir. You just stay where you are and have a good sleep and don’t drive your car unless you are satisfied that you can drive it safely.”

Ontario ministry of transportation senior adviser Yoassry Elzohairy teamed with colleagues including Dr. Henry Moller of the University of Toronto Sleep Research Unit submitted a report, which concluded that driver fatigue is an element behind 400 Canadian deaths every year. Their report estimated that driving after being awake for 18 hours puts you under the same level of impairment as having a blood-alcohol level of .05%. If you get behind the wheel without sleep for 24 hours, that's equal to a level of .1% ---- well over legal intoxication.

A 2005 study, showing one in five Canadians admitted to nodding off or falling asleep at the wheel at least once in the previous 12 months, is noted in the report. And the Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates 20% of the country's collisions can chalk up driver fatigue as a cause.

Poorly maintained trucks

In April 2008, the Ontario Provincial Police charged a dump truck driver with criminal negligence following a bizarre crash on an Ontario highway that killed an elderly couple. The tailgate from a dump truck flew across a section of Highway 400, just outside of Aurora, Ontario and smashed through the windshield of an SUV. The two occupants of the SUV, a man and a woman, both 75 years old, were killed. Many people have also been killed in their cars when the wheels of large trucks break away from the truck when it is going at a high speed.

While cars were stopped at a railway crossing in northern Egypt in 2008, a truck accidentally slammed into vehicles stopped ahead of it while the vehicles waited for an approaching train to pass by them. The train crashed into several vehicles in the middle of the crossing seconds later. Forty people were killed and another forty were injured. Officials said that the truck’s brakes had failed.

Trucker’s rage

In December, 2007, truck driver Christopher John Ford embarked on an amphetamine-fuelled, 150-kilometre pursuit of a family on the Pacific Highway. Ford left Sydney, Australia at 11.30am in mid-December bound for Brisbane in his Kenworth B double; was found guilty in February of one of the worst cases of tailgating in Australia.

The 28-year-old driver stopped at Coffs Harbour, where he injected amphetamines to help stay awake on the long drive. Later that night, 20 kilometres north of the coastal resort town; he swerved his truck across the path of a family of six in a Land Rover. He wanted to stop them overtaking him, but the Land Rover accelerated past before the dual lanes merged.

Somehow, this maneuver enraged the truck driver. A high speed chase unfolded on one of the most dangerous sections of the mainly single-lane highway. Ford tailgated the family at high speed. Only intermittent hill climbs offered any respite. But the truck driver would quickly catch up, forcing other motorists off the road who got between him and his quarry.

Using a mobile phone, the family called police for help. The pursuit only ended when the Land Rover drove up to the Woodburn police station, south of Ballina. Ford also pulled over at the station where a subsequent police search of his B double cab yielded the plastic bags containing amphetamines and seven syringes in a toiletries bag. He was sentenced to 15 months' jail in Lismore Local Court on February 15 after pleading guilty to driving a vehicle in a menacing manner, driving while under the influence of a prohibited drug, possession and self-administering a prohibited drug and failure to record particulars before driving. In February 2008, he was jailed for 15 months.

Many years ago, my wife and I were being chased by a truck driver at night on Highway 401 in Ontario. He finally pulled along side of us and forced my vehicle off the road. I managed to get his licence plate number and had him charged with dangerous driving. He was acquitted because I couldn’t identify him since it was so dark outside when he struck my car.

He didn’t get off that easily. His home was over 500 kilometres from the court house and considering that he had to drive home also, he drove over a 1000 kilometres each of the two days he had to be in court. My wife and I only had to be in court one day so we only had to drive 400 kilometres and we made the day into a picnic. Further, those were two days he was out of work and on top of that he had to pay his lawyer $2,000. I estimate that his encounter with my wife and me cost him at least $3,000.

In November, 2006, a young man was driving on Highway 401 when the driver of a tractor-trailer suddenly pulled in front of him without signaling and forced him to veer to his right. The driver of the tractor-trailer had just made an unsafe lane change. The young man caught up with the tractor-trailer, pulled alongside and began an ill-advised confrontation. It started with back-and-forth gestures and yelling and screaming at each other through the window. The truck driver then rolled down his passenger window, pulled out a handgun and shot at the young man. The young man pulled over and called police. Within a half-hour, the Ontario Provincial Police pulled over a 34-year-old trucker from Detroit, Michigan. An unregistered handgun was seized. The driver of the tractor-trailer was arrested and charged with mischief endangering a life, uttering a death threat, discharging a firearm with intent to endanger a life, importing a firearm without authority and other weapon and ammunition charges.

The truck driver was sent to prison. The young man was very lucky. He could have been shot dead. He was very foolish to yell and scream at the truck driver.

Large trucks can't stop on a dime

Most motorists have no idea what it takes to drive a semi or what it takes to stop one. It takes 290 feet to stop an empty tractor/trailer and even longer if loaded or on wet or slick roads. I have seen drivers in cars pull out in front of large trucks and then remain only two or three car lengths in front of the truck that is immediately behind them.

When fuel tankers are loaded with gas, they weigh about 160,000 pounds or 80 tons. It can take the driver of such a rig over 600 ft to stop when loaded and on top of that, if it jackknifes and crashes and the tanker blows up, anyone in the immediate will be burned to death.

Never, ever pull in front of a large truck if another large truck is a short distance ahead of it. People in small cars are crushed and killed when the truck ahead of them stops suddenly and the truck behind them doesn’t stop in time.

Drunken truck drivers

In December 2007, the drunk driver of a cement truck who was driving at a high rate of speed; rear-ended a 1999 Chrysler Intrepid that was stopped at a red light at an intersection in Calgary, Alberta. Inside the car was a 41-year-old man, 33-year-old woman, two girls ages six and nine and 16-month-old baby boy. They were all killed in the crash. The impact of the blow lodged the car under the front of the truck and propelled it nearly 300 metres. (584 feet) The driver of the cement truck was uninjured in the collision. Moments before the crash, a motorist had called the head office of the cement truck to complain about its driver driving erratically on the street. When the police came on the scene, they arrested him and he refused to take a breathalyzer test. Daniel Tschetter, 50, of Cochrane, Alberta was charged with five counts of manslaughter and refusing to provide a breath sample. He may end up going to prison for a very long time.

In 2006, more than 14,000 people nationwide died in accidents involving drunken drivers in the United States.
Speeding truck drivers

In January 2008, a speeding fuel tanker crashed and spilled its cargo on a street in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. As many as three dozen people were killed in the resulting fire.

In September 2008, near the Red Sea resort town of Ras Sider, in Egypt, a speeding truck burst a tire. The driver lost control of the truck and it slammed into a bus, killing 12 passengers and injured 30 others.

The speed limit in Canada on major highways is 100 kilometres an hour. That is 62 miles an hour. Unfortunately, most drivers, including many truck drivers tend to drive 120 kilometres and hour. That is 74.5 miles an hour. Trying to stop a big rig that is going that fast is fraught with danger such as jack knifing and rolling over.

The Canada Safety Council supports the law that mandates that speed limiters be put on trucks and that they be set to a maximum speed of 105 km/h.

A speed limiter, sometimes called a governor, is a built-in microchip that allows a truck engine’s top speed to be preset. Trucks built in the last decade come equipped with this technology. Nonetheless, regulation would ensure all trucks operate at a safe speed. That would reduce highway collisions related to tailgating and improper lane changes.

In November 2005, the Ontario Trucking Association asked the provincial government to require all trucks that operate into, out of and within Ontario to activate the speed limiters and to set the highest speed a truck can go to no more than 105 km/h.
As of January of this year, all big trucks operating within Ontario must have these speed limiters operating. Many U.S. based large trucks already have such devices on in their vehicles In fact, over 50% of the trucks operating in Ontario today and 74% in the United States are already governed by such devices without harming their ability to service their customers.

Tailgating truck drivers

The one kind of driver I hate more than any other is the tailgater. These thugs are bullies and don’t give a damn about anyone else who is on the road and ahead of them. How many times have you been driving down the highway and watched a big truck following only ten feet from the rear bumper of a automobile or another truck?

Years ago, there was a royal commission set up in Ontario to seek the advice of the trucking industry and motorists about truck safety. I contacted the Commissioner and told him that tailgating trucks was my major concern. He invited me to make a report and present it to him. I did better than that. I spent two weeks standing on bridges that went over various parts of Highway 401 in Ontario, one of the busiest highways in the world and took forty pictures of truck tailgating other trucks and cars. Some of the tailgaters who were driving over 100 kilometres an hour were only two car lengths behind the vehicles ahead of them. Sitting in the cab of a rig when you are tailgating another rig is outright stupid considering the fact that you can’t see what is ahead of the rig your are tailgating. Despite that, these dummies were still doing it.

When I showed up at the hearing, a large screen was pulled down from the ceiling and after the room was darkened, I showed everyone (the room was packed) the forty examples of tailgating truck drivers.

The Commissioner added that since I had previously brought up the subject, he did a study and found out that the greatest complaint truck drivers have is being tailgated by other truck drivers.

Following too closely behind other vehicles is a common cause of trucking accidents. The driver of a truck that is too close to the vehicle in front has less time to stop or take evasive action. He or she is more likely to need to brake quickly, possibly causing a jackknife if the trailer is light or empty. Tailgating can lead to rear end collisions, with horrible consequences for the vehicle in front.

A cop gave me good advice once. He said that if you are being tailgated by someone, don’t jam on your brakes as that may result in you being rammed from behind and subsequently lose control of your car. He said, just take your foot off the gas and let your vehicle slow down to about 10 miles an hour or 15 kilometres an hour slower than the speed limit. It won’t be long before the tailgater realizes that continuing to follow you at that speed is not what he or she wants to do. The tailgater will either get into the next lane or slow down so that he or she is further behind you. Then you may return to your original speed. It has always worked for me.

If a truck driver continues to tailgate me, I wait until I am at the bottom of a hill. I then slow down and finally stop on the hill. Have you any idea just how difficult it is for a truck driver who is driving a large rig to get his truck up to speed again under those circumstances? By the time he or she does, you are several miles a head of him with many, many cars between you.

Tractor-trailers are supposed to follow the four-second rule and remain at least four seconds behind the vehicle in front of them, allowing sufficient time to stop or take evasive action. Unfortunately, not all truck drivers (and other users of the road) follow that rule.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) is urging automobile and truck drivers to avoid the dangerous practice of tailgating heavy trucks in an effort to increase fuel economy. The ATA advises safety directors and trucking companies to warn their drivers about this common practice, known as “drafting.”

Drafting involves driving a vehicle closely behind a truck to use the reduction of wind resistance to reduce the amount of energy needed to propel the auto. Few driving behaviors are more dangerous on our highways than drafting. Drivers who practice this unsafe behavior are often out of the field of vision of the truck driver ahead of them and the truck driver ahead of the vehicles who are close behind him is unable to see around his truck behind them. If he is forced to brake suddenly, he will be rear-ended. Drafting is unsafe, illegal and significantly increases the chances of injury or death.


Unfortunately, because of the many fatalities that come about because of truck drivers who are negligent and dangerous when it comes to driving such rigs, motorists should try and stay away from the trucks if at all possible. Motorists do not have the control of these rigs. Most truck drivers do have control of their rigs and they are not a danger to the motoring public. But because of truck driving thugs who don’t care about other people on the road, they should be treated as if they are wild animals. And what do we do when we see wild animals? We stay clear of them. Doing that, we will arrive home safely. The trouble facing all of us on the highways is; we don’t know which of the truck drivers are the wild animals and which of them are the decent truck drivers. Just as we keep our eyes open when walking in the wilds, we should be equally alert when driving on highways.

I would be less than honest if I didn’t mention that drivers of pickup trucks, motorcycles, SUVs, busses and automobiles are just as stupid and dangerous as bad truck drivers when driving on highways. I will write about them later.


brizz said...

I am commenting on the part about the drunk cement truck driver,This driver has not went to trial yet, or has he spent anytime in jail over this. Dahn Batchelor you need to get your facts straight before you decide to post this crap. The trial starts next month. So how could the driver have "went to jail for a long time" If the trial hasnt begun. Do you even know about this accident or did you just hear about it? .

Dahn Batchelor said...

Brizz is right.I accidentally said that the cement truck driver was convicted and was sent to prison. I had some one else in mind when I said that in my blog. I will keep my readers up to date with respect to his trial.

Arlene said...

Again, about the cement truck driver.

Dahn, thank you for acknowledging that the trial has not yet taken place.

However, there are other details that have not yet been established in a court of law:

a. The drunken driving; this is not one of the charges. Even the officers said he blew, but not properly. I happen to know the accused, and he said he blew a dozen times and there were no results. Until this fact is proven one way or another, it is a troubling label to put on someone.

b. When the accused was released on bail, one of the reasons he was not allowed to drive heavy machinery on a construction site alone was because the possibility of an illness causing the accident was raised.

The trial is March 9. After its conclusion, the matter could well be used in one of your blogs. But not before the fact, please.

The accused is a person who had a spotless record before this accident. I, as much as anyone else, am looking forward to the explanation. It boggles the mind, and is a tragedy for all families concerned.

I am not disputing the facts, Dahn, because I do not know what they are. And with all due respect, Dahn, neither do you.


brizz said...

Its sad to know that drunk drivers always have some kind of assholes that will protect them Candace... I guess we will see what happens next week, I WILL be there to watch that drunk burn...

Anonymous said...

In response to the above comments about the cement truck...I am a witness to this crash. I watched the accused in the back of the police car attempt to blow into the breathalizer machine. Candace, I would consider the source of your information before believing that he tried a dozen times...If it fails to register (due to a suspect not blowing hard enough, for example), the test may not be done again.So far there is overwhelming evidence that the accused had consumed alcohol. And in response to his bid to get his license back to drive heavy machinery at work...his defense may be a "medical condition"...why on earth would it be ok for him to drive heavy machinery again (after killing 5 people) if he has a medical condition that supposedly caused this crash?Think about it...

Dahn Batchelor said...

Two motorists called police to report the truck's erratic driving. The 20-tonne cement truck was going at high rates of speed and passing other vehicles on the shoulder for 20 kilometres. A witness testified on March 11th that she smelled alcohol on Tschetter's breath after the accident. There was a bottle of vodka found in the cement truck although his boss said that it’s not uncommon for drivers to receive bottles of liquor as gifts from people they work with. The witness to the accident said that Tschetter looked at the wrecked car after the crash and then tossed a vodka bottle into the rear hopper of the truck. Why did he try to hide the bottle if it wasn’t opened?

The Criminal Code does not specifically prescribe any special test for determining impairment however, if there is a marked departure from normal driving and evidence is submitted that the defendant’s breath smelled as if alcohol had been consumed and if there is evidence that a bottle of alcohol was found in the vehicle that had been opened, and that he tried to hide the bottle, the courts are willing to make the presumption that the defendant’s driving was impaired by the ingestion of alcohol, especially when the defendant didn’t properly blow into the breathalyzer.

I will wait for the final determination to be made by the court before I make my final comment on this case but I strongly suspect that Tschetter will be convicted of five counts of manslaughter and that decision will be arrived at by the premise that he was driving in a dangerous manner as a result of his driving being impaired because he ingested alcohol just before or during his driving.

If he wasn’t drunk, then how can anyone explain why this man was driving in an erratic manner on the shoulder for 20 kilometres at a high rate of speed?

Unknown said...

drunk driving is treated as a criminal offense and we should not drunk drive Range Rover Service brisbane always advice people to don't drunk drive