Group targets 'trucker fatigue'

Fatigue is the leading cause of heavy truck crashes - posing a greater danger than either alcohol or drugs - according to a study by the National Transportation Safety Board. Trucks that weigh more than 10,000 pounds were involved in more than 5,000 deaths in 1998.

That's why members of a broad coalition of victims' families, government officials, truck drivers, shippers, and motorists are working together to combat "tired trucker syndrome."

"These crashes are preventable," says Daphne Izer, who formed Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) when a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel of an 80,000-pound rig and killed four teen-agers, including her son, Jeff.

What started as a Lisbon Falls, Maine-based group has grown into a nationally recognized organization.

Systemic problems within the industry, such as driver compensation and hours-of-service laws, create the perfect breeding ground for fatigue-related crashes, Ms. Izer says.

"Drivers are paid by the mile, which means they aren't getting paid unless the wheels are turning," she says. To survive economically, many drivers skirt the law. The result is falsified logbooks and truckers who drive up to 100 hours a week but report only 70.

"We want drivers to be paid by the hour for all hours worked, and for shippers, receivers, and carriers to be held accountable and liable for illegal and unsafe trips," she says.

But it's not just the number of hours worked that causes fatigue. Other factors include a lack of safe truck parking and rest stops, and sleep apnea, a disorder that can result in poor sleep.

To combat the problem, PATT ran a safety advertisement in the major trucking publication, The Trucker. The ad has now been made into a poster, which is distributed to truck stops nationwide.

Although Izer's group is assumed to be anti-trucker, she says this is not true. Many truckers use the organization as a resource. "They want to know how they can report safety issues," to protect other drivers as well as themselves.

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(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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