Today brings the second installment in the The Dallas Morning News’ truly frightening three-part series about road hazards caused by trucking companies that hire inexperienced drivers, and fail to maintain their big rigs. This is a must-read article. Here is a short excerpt:
“If the motoring public knew what was running down the road with them, they’d be really scared,” said Senior Trooper John Pellizzari, a DPS Commercial Vehicle Enforcement officer in Wise County, notorious among state and federal truck inspectors for deadly crashes involving rock haulers.
Around the nation, big-truck accidents have become a daily occurrence. In the 12-county Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, 467 people died in accidents involving big trucks from 2000 through 2005.
In rural Wise County, northwest of Fort Worth, 56 people died in accidents with big trucks in the same period, according to state data. In fact, Wise now ranks fourth in the state in truck-related fatalities, just behind three of the most populous urban counties. Many of these accidents involved rock haulers, state and federal authorities say.
“That tells us there is a significant problem,” said Maj. Mark Rogers of the DPS Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Service in Austin.
Accidents involving rock haulers have become so frequent in Wise County that state and federal authorities have taken the unusual step of conducting mass inspections there several times a year.
Wise County illustrates another stark reality as truck traffic soars in Texas and the United States: The number of trucks far outpaces the ability of law enforcement authorities to enforce safety regulations.
Because of limited resources, DPS has assigned only four truck safety inspectors to monitor thousands of big rigs traveling Wise County roads every day. Kaufman County has the same number of vehicle enforcement officers even though it had only 15 fatalities in truck accidents between 2000 and 2005, compared with Wise’s 56.
As a result, dangerous trucks and reckless drivers face little risk of getting inspected or ordered off the road.
“There are just so many trucks,” said Trooper Randy McDonald, one of the state’s inspectors for Wise County. “We’re not touching very many of them.”