In 2004, a horrific truck accident in Sherman, Texas, killed ten people. The truck driver’s 18-wheeler drifted out of its lane, crossed the median, and slammed into two vehicles head on, ending in a vehicle fire. Cell phone records of the truck driver revealed that he had been awake for much of the last 34 hours before the crash and had violated federal trucking regulations.
About 60 miles away in Fort Worth, Texas, police officer Robert Mills heard the story and was moved into action. Seven years later, he is a truck safety activist who is pushing for better and more effective trucking laws. Currently, Mills and his allies are working toward outlawing the biggest and heaviest trucks from our highways and interstates and toward better tracking systems than paper logbooks – which many truck drivers refer to as “comic books.”
In the Sherman, Texas, truck accident described above, a witness claims that the trucker threw his log book into the fire caused by the wreck. He is serving a ten-year prison sentence for ten counts of manslaughter.
According to Millis, many of the 4,000 fatalities and 150,000 injuries caused by truck accidents each year can be prevented if only we had better systems and better regulations. As of now, truckers face tight deadlines and often feel pressure to break federal trucking regulations in order to keep their jobs or make enough money to support their families. On-board recorders that kept accurate records of when the truck is in use could help both prevent trucking accidents and keep truckers safe. Trucking companies are fighting against the changes to the law, saying that it would hurt profits and productivity.
Congress is currently considering a bill dealing with these very issues, the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Protection Act. The bill is supported by many safety advocates as well as the Teamsters, of whom 600,000 are truck drivers.