KOLD Investigates: Big rig danger

KOLD Investigates: Big rig danger

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Commercial trucks ship cargo across our country every day, but what happens when they crash?

Last year 4,111 people died in accidents with tractor trailers across the country. That's up from 3,921 in 2015.

KOLD investigates the dangers surrounding one of our nation's most popular professions.

A foot on the throttle turns tires across state lines for Ron Bliss.

"In general I love the job," he said. "The trucks keep our nation rolling."

He tows his time on the road, hauling cargo as a licensed commercial truck driver.

"I get to see different country every day," Bliss said. "I have experiences getting from Point A to Point B."

While some prove positive on the pavement other scary situations can haul more hesitation. He said careless speed can come with so much sacrifice.

"I've had people actually cut me off in traffic where I've had to aggressively get on the brakes," Bliss said.

Bliss can't control the cars around him, but the state's safety inspections help steer his big rig in the right direction.

"In today's world it's much more rigid and there are many more requirements as far as a CDL (commercial licensed) driver," commercial instructor Bill Shader said.

He said every truck driver completes a checklist of 90 items before any of the semi's eighteen wheels start rolling. Every brake and tire is tested and cleared. Click HERE for ADOT's Commercial Driver License Information.

"It's for the safety of the public and it's safety for the company," Bliss said.

However, with such high speeds, we still regularly see devastating scenes on our highways. Click HERE for state and US statistics on commercial truck crashes.

Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. Charlie Serino spends his time enforcing highway laws. He and a fleet of other troopers watch for commercial violations.

"It's something we have to check and make sure because they can still make mistakes," Serino said. "We're looking at their equipment as we're transitioning alongside these guys and these drivers and these rigs."

In 2016 DPS troopers stopped 83,976 trucks across our state. They've completed 65,678 inspections as of Oct. 27, 2017. They monitor equipment and check the condition of every driver. Click HERE for statistics on truck inspections.

"It's the fatigue issue," Serino said. "More so than not a lot of these drivers, some of them have medical issues that are contributing, that is a very important component to this."

Federal law caps straight time behind the wheel at 11 hours a day, but Serino said some stay on the street longer than they should.

"They are trying to manage their time to maximize their income," Serino said. "The more that they're working, the more that they are getting paid."

Right now truckers can count their hours with paper logs or digital recording devices. In just a few weeks a new rule will require all companies to change to electronic systems, making it easier and faster to track and regulate records.

For more information on new Electronic Logging Device Regulations click HERE.

"We start the clock and have 14 hours," Bliss said. "Once that clock runs out we can't move anymore."

Regardless, Bliss believes everyone has to make an effort to stay out of harm's way and switch lanes to security on the open road.

"They don't realize how dangerous a situation they just put themselves in," Bliss said.

For more information on Arizona DPS Commercial Enforcement click HERE.

For more information on CDL Truck License Requirements click HERE.

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