Troopers and trucking industry working together to promote safety

Published: Apr. 16, 2015 at 1:45 AM CDT|Updated: May. 16, 2015 at 1:46 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A spike in accidents is bringing renewed attention to the dangers of 18-wheelers.

Big rigs have made headlines recently, from crashes that clog traffic, to accidents like the one that took the life of Montgomery Police Officer David Colley. Despite the negative perception, there are efforts taking place right now to regulate the commercial trucking industry and promote safety on the road.

Trucking industry officials and law enforcement will admit commercial vehicles get a bad rap.

"I think we all agree that we want safe commercial vehicles and safe drivers driving up and down our highways because when one of these large trucks is involved in a crash, there's usually going to be a lot of destruction. There's usually going to be road closures and a lot of time there's going to be injuries and death," said Sgt. Steve Jarrett with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

But as the Alabama Trucking Association points out, it's usually the vehicles trying to get past these semis that are to blame.

"Statistics prove to us that about 72 percent of all two-vehicle crashes involving a car and a truck, most often the smaller vehicle is at fault causing the crash," said Tim Frazier, Director of Safety and Member Services for the Alabama Trucking Association.

To avoid these crashes, Alabama State Troopers are trained and certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to enforce the Federal Motor Carrier rules and regulations governing commercial motor vehicles.

The inspection starts with the driver and debunks a common misconception.

"He can work a 14-hours day, 14 consecutive hours, in that 14 he cannot drive but 11," said Frazier.

Sgt. Jarrett adds, "Most of these men and women are professional drivers, and highly trained and they take pride in doing a good job."

Troopers inspect these vehicles from front to back on a regular basis. Everything from the headlights, turn signals, tires, wheels, lugnuts and oil leaks get scrutinized.

Frazier says his industry is one of the heaviest regulated industries in the country.

Troopers do about 100 inspections a month, but looming budget cuts could force drivers of these large vehicles to be on the honor system.

"We're already operating at bare minimum man power, and this is just one of the aspects of public safety that is going to suffer," said Sgt. Jarrett.

Sgt. Jarrett says if they had more troopers, they could do more inspections, incidentally, forcing everyone on Alabama roads to be accountable. Jarrett says as with any business or industry, there are bad apples but he would hope that if the number of inspections decline, trucking companies continue to maintain the vehicles and hire quality drivers.

The Alabama Trucking Association cautions drivers in passenger vehicles to slow down when they are around these commercial vehicles.

"They don't realize the blind spots in that vehicle that he actually or she cannot see you it has its opportunities that puts you in harm's way just by design sometimes," said Frazier.

This week, the Alabama Trucking Association will have an operation with their motor carrier unit, known as the TACT program, Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks, working on-site and addressing issues.

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