A six-year study by Indiana State Police inspectors of truck traffic through northwestern Indiana Lake and Porter counties found that one in four heavy trucks had serious safety violations, most notably faulty brakes and driver fatigue.
An article in The Northwest Indiana Times of Jan. 8, 2012, noted that such violations were serious enough to remove trucks from service and risked the lives of both travelers and truck drivers. Much of the data was collected through random checks at truck weigh stations from 2003 to 2008 and “only scratch the surface of the safety problem,” said Scott Fleming, supervisor of the state police inspectors.
12,931 braking violations were found, which critically impact stopping distances, said Fleming. According to the National Safety Council’s Defensive Driving Course for Professional Truck Drivers, a fully-loaded 80,000-pound truck traveling 65 miles per hour requires at least 525 feet to stop safely, which is 66 percent more distance than most automobiles, which require about 316 feet when traveling at 65 miles per hour to stop safely. So, if the truck is overweight or has faulty brakes or both, the danger is clear.
Driver fatigue was another chilling violation. Heavy-truck operators are required by federal law to keep complete logbooks that record hours worked and all breaks. Federal regulations limit heavy-truck drivers to 11 hours of continuous driving within a 24-hour period before they must take a 10-hour break. The heavy-truck inspectors noted 10,376 violations related to missing or faulty driver lo books or drivers who went over the federal standard for consecutive hours without a break. There were more 1,400 violations in Northwest Indiana recorded over six years for truckers operating rigs beyond the 11-hour limit.
The study raised the question of how typical such numbers are across the United States. Trucking cases and litigation nationwide indicate such problems are not unique to Indiana. However, most states do not have the money or manpower to enforce federal or state trucking safety regulations to protect public and driver safety. It is therefore incumbent upon interstate commercial trucking companies to ensure their trucks are properly serviced and maintained, and that drivers are qualified and follow all safety procedures and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. However, in an effort to hold down expenses, many companies do not follow the rules even some of the time.