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Exhausted truckers put travelers at risk

A June USA Today story illustrates why devastating truck accidents are to be expected.

Titled "RIGGED: Forced into debt, worked past exhaustion, left with nothing," the article shows how the demands of trucking companies push drivers to their physical limit, so that wipeouts on our highways are commonplace.

Treated like indentured servants

The article highlights the example of one driver, who was treated by his company as an indentured servant.

The driver worked 16 hour days, driving refrigerators and tires to warehouses. He worked such long hours there was no time to return home at night. Instead he slept in his cab by the road.

According to the article, his weekly pay could be as little as 67 cents a week. When his leased truck broke down, and he could not afford repairs, he was fired and his employer took the truck back. And pocketed the $78,000 he had already paid into it.

It sounds like a story from The Grapes of Wrath. But it is happening today, in Kentucky and around the nation - exhausted, depressed drivers pushing themselves to the limit to keep their jobs.

The article was about a subset of truckers - port truckers - who move intermodular containers from ships to retailer warehouses. Not all truck companies are this villainous.

But talk to over-the-road truckers about how they keep their eyes open trying to meet delivery schedules. Their exhaustion is a primary reason for overturns, lane crossings, asleep-at-the-wheel accidents that take out dads, moms and kids on our highways.

Think about the other driver's situation

Our recommendation is to realize, when you are driving, that not everyone on the road is as alert as you are. Drive defensively. And when you hear about multi-million settlements against trucking companies, understand how their constant push to meet deadlines puts ordinary people at risk.

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