Truckers torn between following rules and delivering on time

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Investigators say a truck driver who hadn’t slept in more than 24 hours hit and injured comedian Tracy Morgan last weekend.  Driver fatigue is said to be the largest contributor to big rig crashes.

Eddie Torres, owner of Austin CDL Services, tells KXAN that truck drivers are in high demand right now in Texas. They are training about 10-12 truck drivers a day.

Torres says it’s not a job for everyone, “I pray every morning. And I’m afraid. Being afraid is good, because being afraid is what’s going to bring you home.”

“You’re not driving a car, you’re driving a piece of equipment,” said Frank Gonzales, an Austin truck driver.

And for truck drivers, there’s one key trait.

“You have to be very patient,” said Gonzales. “It takes a lot of patience.”

“If you don’t have patience, you’re not going to be a good driver,” said Torres.

Drivers must also follow the rules. Chief among them, drive time regulations, requiring drivers get a certain amount of rest time.

“What I’m holding is a log book that a driver would hold at all times,” said Julie Stephens, a bookkeeper at the training facility. “You don’t want to think you were on the road for eight hours and you’ve really been on the road for 11 hours.”

Drivers tell KXAN that the rules are sometimes broken.

“They are pressured to get the load there on time. Sometimes its over 11 hours, sometimes it’s 13. So they will go the extra two hours, hoping they wont get pulled over. Sometimes that’s when the problem happens,” said Torres.

Problems like falling asleep and getting into accidents.

“It is a fact that a lot of drivers do not get the rest they need. Reason for that is, trucks are not making money if trucks aren’t on road,” said Gonzales.

Truck drivers also say it’s helpful when regular drivers give them space. Unlike cars, trucks can’t stop abruptly.

Truck drivers are all required to undergo a physical exam. Doctors look at several factors including hearing, vision and blood pressure to make sure drivers are healthy enough to be on the road.

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