NBC Evening News for Tuesday, Oct 04, 1977
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(Studio) Long-haul truck drivers are paid by mile, so often they keep moving instead of stopping to rest.
REPORTER: David Brinkley
(No location given) Truck drivers often stay on road too long. Ex. cited with regard to trucker stopped for spot inspection in Tennessee; law officers find 128 pep pills on him. Driver says his company expects him to make deliveries on time, despite number of hrs. without sleep. [Driver Herbert BURNETT - notes it sometimes takes all day to load truck, and it's time to leave when driver ready to sleep. Says driver has to begin driving anyway.] Truckers often use pep pills illegally, in order to stay awake; in Wheeling, West Virginia, it's discovered that prostitutes sell pills to truckers in parking lots of truck stops. Sales are arranged via CB radio. Other drivers rely on coffee or short rest stops to stay awake and keep going. Toughest part of trucker's job is staying awake&alert. [DRIVER - cites own experiences of being too tired while driving.] Most American workers are on job 40 hrs. per week; most truckers work 75-100 hrs. per week Govt. regulations permit it and most companies demand at least that much. Trucking ind. opposes any reduction in number of hrs. trucker is allowed to work. [Yellow Freight Company spokesperson Ken THOMPSON - feels 70 hrs. in 8 days is sufficient and sees no reason for reduction, as long as drivers get proper rest.] Stress tests done for Transport. Department 5 years ago found regulations required truckers to work too long, increase chances of accidents. No changes in regulations have taken place. Truckers say many companies violate existing regulations; example is regulation allowing drivers to be scheduled for 10 hour trip, but must be given 8 hour rest afterwards. Truckers say companies schedule them for trips longer than 10 hrs., driven at legal speed limit. Exs. of such trips cited. [Dr. Robert MACKIE - sees problem in that truckers are rewarded for number of hrs. they drive.] Mackie conducted driver fatigue tests for Trans. Department [MACKIE - notes strong economy advantages to drivers for being on road for long periods and conflict between economy advantages and best interests of society.] No. of truck accidents and resulting deaths, both to truckers and those in other vehicles, noted; no figs. available with regard to how many of these caused by trucker fatigue, but those studying problem say many were. It's no secret among truckers that many drivers on road are too tired to be driving safely; there is little enforcement of laws now on books and in most cases, those regulations and trucking industry policies ignore what is known with regard to human fatigue and safety on hwy.
REPORTER: Brian Ross
(Studio) Future report on trucking safety noted.
REPORTER: David Brinkley