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Truckers, once knights of the highway, are too often black knights page 2
In an Interstate duel of car vs. tractor-trailer, the car loses.

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RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 8/17/2003

By RICHARD AMRHINE

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You have to sympathize with the frustrations they face, especially the long-haulers who are away from family and friends for extended periods. And we all know there are few things we eat, use, or count on to be there, that haven't been transported at some point by a tractor-trailer. So we have a lot of reasons to be appreciative of truckers.

But it took only one tractor-trailer driver to end the young and promising life of MWC junior Emily Cella, who was a sitting duck as she came upon traffic slowed for construction. What was his excuse? Maybe we'll find out, maybe we won't.

In the accident that killed Patricia and Stephanie Hines in May 2002, a tired trucker ran the light at U.S. 17 and Hartwood Road, wiping out the family's pickup truck with a rig that weighed 77,000 pounds. That is a lot more tonnage--and responsibility--than the average driver is hauling around.

After the Hartwood accident, Sgt. David Feather, who oversees the state police's Northern Virginia Motor Carrier Safety Division, said that in 80 percent of the 6,000 fatal crashes between big rigs and passenger cars each year, the auto driver is at fault.

But then consider also that in those fatal crashes, the person who died was 5 times more likely to be the driver of the car. In other words, the danger truckers present just by being on the road--not to mention the added risk they take by speeding or driving too long or driving a questionable vehicle--is not to themselves, but to the other guy. As professionals, they have to be held to a higher standard.

When a trucker falsifies his log book and drives too long either to make a delivery in time or just to get home sooner, it's no different than any other sort of on-the-job cheating--except he's in charge of a 30-ton vehicle barreling along at breakneck speeds. He may also fear that his job depends on timely deliveries, and his supervisor's boss and his boss might be under pressure to make sure drivers and goods are on time.

The federal government claims to be sensitive to all the issues--from the fatigued trucker who poses a threat on the Interstate, to the overall health of the U.S. economy as it depends on products getting from here to there.


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