SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A series of high profile crashes involving tractor-trailers recently has put highway safety and training for commercial truckers into question. How much training is required and is it enough?
If you drive I-80, Highway 99 or I-5 on a regular basis, it may seem like more and more truckers are on the road. Did you know some qualify to drive in as little as a day? It’s something the feds are trying to put the brakes on.
Sean Taurius has been a commercial trucker since 2008 after working at an oil refinery.
“I took the job because it’s better pay. But I like it,” he said.
As the economy grew, so did his salary. Many can start at $80,000. Truckers are in demand, and that means job security.
“Everything comes on a truck, everything goes out on a truck,” Taurius said.
He has seen some pretty bad crashes like the ones Tuesday on I-80 near Nyack where an overturned tractor-trailer blocked the entire interstate, causing another chain-reaction collision involving many other big rigs. Several people were seriously hurt.
“A lot of times it’s not necessarily the trucker’s fault. We see all the people on their phones texting,” he said.
Anthony Jones is also a trucker. He said, “They move different directions and go real fast so you never know when they are going to cut in front of you.”
According to the CHP, injury truck collisions are increasing statewide. For example, in Placer County in 2015 there were 43 crashes, in 2017 there were 55, and in 2019, 71 crashes were reported.
Fred Krauss with Western Truck school blames a lack of education standards.
“There are some trucking schools out there that actually attempt to train a person in one day,” said Krauss.
His school requires 120 hours of field training.
“It’s an awfully big vehicle that can weigh 80,000 lbs could be a tractor-trailer, 75 feet long and you’re going down 99 with cars all around you,” he said.
He supports a new federal law called the ‘entry-level driver training rule’. It would create uniform training standards and require an approved curriculum for schools nationwide. In the meantime, CHP is doing what it can to keep truckers safe.
“Any officer of the state can make an enforcement contact and then we also have specialized enforcement units who do roadside inspections. We have our own inspection station,” said Harris.
But it’s those hours out in the road that made the difference for Taurus.
Taurus said, “An old man once told me when I started: ‘You got one chance to make it right otherwise you kill somebody, or you kill yourself.'”
That new law was supposed to take effect next week but has been delayed until 2020. The feds say it’s because they had to do IT improvements to support it.