21 July 2008

Some truckers on road too sick to work? Shock!

USA Today - Study: Ailing truckers causing fatal wrecks

After writing about the pileup in St. Louis last week involving a trucker barreling into stop-and-go traffic, I started to worry about some of the most important people on the road - those hauling freight or people long distances using trucks or buses.

Part of this can be blamed squarely on government. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the agency responsible for dealing with unfit truckers, hasn't acted on even one of eight recommendations that could cut down on the number of wrecks involving someone who shouldn't be behind the wheel of a rig in the first place. One would set a minimum standard for whom is "fit" to drive, another would prevent "doctor shopping" by truckers to get a "pass" medically when they shouldn't.

Now, don't confuse my thinking these would be good ideas for holding anti-trucker opinions. I know how important truckers are, and if I stayed in one place long enough, I'd get a CDL and get on the road myself. If I called for pushing out doctors who shouldn't be doctors anymore due to health problems, would I be anti-doctor? No, if anything I'd be thinking of the whole profession by wanting to phase out people who can't do the job. People with sleep conditions or blackouts really shouldn't be on the road. It's common sense, and public opinion may cause it to become yet another needless legislation of a no-brainer.

The main problem keeping unhealthy truckers on the road is pay. As it is, just keeping the truck going is consuming more and more of a trucker's pay, to the point where some are taking home very little of it. There's those damn fuel costs rearing their head again. Sadly, this combined with long tenures behind the wheel mean that those truckers who shouldn't be on the road have to stay there anyway because they can't retire or just take another job.

There's got to be another solution besides "durr... legislate common sense", but we as a people need to find it.

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