Five years after a series of fatal truck crashes focused scrutiny on driver fatigue, led by Parents Against Tired Truckers, Maine has increased the number of troopers, inspectors and hours commercial trucking laws are enforced. But the results are mixed.
The number of fatal crashes has increased and decreased in the last several years, while the number of state police assigned to truck inspections has remained constant since an initial boost in 1996. This year, 25 troopers, 12 civilian inspectors and four field supervisors are patrolling the state, 10 more people than were on the job in 1995. They issue about 6,000 citations annually for violations ranging from inadequate logbook records to faulty brakes, according to the Associated Press.
Daphne Izer, a founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers, said the state has come a long way, but still has a reputation as a safe bet for night traveling among truckers who break the rules. State police say logging-truck drivers still load up in the day, then wait hours before hitting the road in order to take advantage of gaps in overnight inspection schedules.
The state also has created a board primarily made up of trucking industry representatives to do peer reviews of trucking companies with the most citations each quarter. Since 1996, eight carriers have had their licenses to operate in Maine suspended, said Garry Hinkley, director of motor vehicle services for the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Hinkley thinks the process has worked as a deterrent. A point system indicates that the severity of offenses accumulated by trucking companies has decreased since 1996, he said.
But figures compiled by the state police show no clear reduction in the number of fatal crashes.
A recent fatal crash involving a tractor-trailer remains under investigation. A motorist was killed March 1 when a truck driven by Michael Rogers of Kansas City, KS, crashed through a guardrail while traveling north on the Maine Turnpike.
Rogers has not been charged, but police have found several violations in his logbooks. A final report on the crash will be sent to the district attorney's office, which will decide whether charges should be brought.