Four-wheelers, too: Highway safety should be a widely shared aim

Rick Blatter | July 09, 2014

Reader Rick Blatter of Laval, Quebec, offered the following response to this linked New Jersey newspaper editorial to Overdrive after it was ignored by the newspaper’s editors. Weigh in yourself in the comments or write a letter to the editor of Overdrive via this link.


I too am angry and saddened that yet another person has died on the highways of New Jersey.

Neither tightening nor relaxing regulation will solve the problem of non-compliance.

And part of the problem may be totally illogical over-regulation. Some rules actually penalize and discourage tired drivers from stopping to take a safety nap (of one, two, three or more hours) if tired. Why would anyone make such an unsafe rule? Every rest area gives lip service to “safety breaks,” yet Department of Transportation rules actually discourage this in practice.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Missouri-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, sums up the problem this way: “The (new) rules took away all the flexibility around planning for breaks and avoiding traffic congestion.”

“When your work day starts, it ends 14 hours later, no matter what you did in that time,” said Spencer in this story. “So say after four or five hours, (a driver) gets into a congested urban area and thinks it would make sense to take a nap and take a break and wait for the traffic to go away. Your 14 hours doesn’t stop, putting you at risk of not making your destination before you run out of time. It’s nutty.”


‘Perfect storm’ for driver issues afoot?

In the words of driver Allen Smith: "with all that has just happened in just the last 3 weeks, we have the momentum and leverage needed to encourage the FMCSA to listen intently, while everything is out on the table from all sides."

If a driver feels tired, yet he or she can’t afford to lose the safety break/nap time without risking running out of hours, he or she tends to press on.

Why would anyone make such a dangerous rule? Why would lawmakers discourage (for all intents and purposes) tired drivers from taking a nap/ safety break?

Margaret Jelcich, of Maplewood, N.J., recently sent a New Jersey paper an opinion letter blaming the ” the bullies behind the wheels of tractor-trailers” for highway safety problems.

I am a trucker (amongst other things), though many people cringe when I say this. In the 20 or so years that I have been driving big trucks, I have been tailgated, cut off and a witness to reckless driving by automobile drivers on our highways. It is especially dangerous during rush-hour traffic when four-wheelers race to wherever they are going. The bigger the city, and the more dense the traffic, the more dangerous, reckless and uncourteous car drivers get.


Speeding four-wheeler in the breakdown lane!

"The more truckers I meet, the more I realize the good ones really are patient people" and other notes on merging.

My biggest pet peeve is four-wheelers that speed by me in the left lane, then slam on their brakes and cut in front of me in the middle or right lane … still braking. Do such drivers realize it takes me 10 times the distance to stop compared to their car? This maneuver is illegal and will get them a fine if it does not cause an accident.


VIDEO: Dashcam documents four-wheeler bad behavior

Libby Clayton sent along a harrowing dashcam vid showing one of the more egregious instances of aggressive driving by one of our four-wheeled friends that she's seen recently.

Another pet peeve is when cars zoom by in the left lane of a three-or-more-lane highway, then slam on their brakes and cut across three or more lanes to exit on the right at the last possible moment. This is an illegal and highly dangerous maneuver as well.

This reader goes on to say: “They play chicken, drive on the tail of your car to the point all you can see is the grille of the cab. They will box you in — front, back and sides — so that you can’t escape them. They drive in the left-hand lane, and speed.” These are all things I see cars do too. Granted, there are some bad truck drivers, but there are many, many more bad car drivers.

When not driving a truck, I drive a tiny Hyundai Accent. Since I know what damage trucks can do either because of a “bully” or nut behind the wheel, and/or because of blind spots, especially along the right side of big trucks, I give them plenty of space/room. (Which is the law … and safe.) I try to stay away from them! And so should you.

Unsafe car drivers like to hang out around the sides of big trucks. Not only do they risk being “cut off” because they are hanging out in the truck’s blind spot, but if they ever saw a big-rig tire blowout, they would realize that should a tire on the truck blow, and their window is open, they could be seriously injured by flying tire parts and even lose control of their car because of the surprise of the blast. Tire changers for trucks have been killed by the blast of a tire they were working on. Many safe garages now use cages to protect the tire technician when filling up truck tires … just in case.

Would you get too close to an elephant? My intelligent mother once said regarding crossing the road as a pedestrian: “You might legally have the right of way over the car, but you will be the one that is dead if the car ‘illegally’ hits you.”

When driving my tiny car I use this philosophy with big trucks and car drivers suffering from road rage. I try to stay out of their way.


Think you’ve got inspection frustration?

It could be worse: While Overdrive's CSA survey shows continuing concern for deteriorating law-enforcement/driver relations, be thankful you're in America and not Argentina, as a recent case illustrates...

This reader goes on to say, “I often see auto drivers pulled over, but never a truck.” If she only knew! Not only do I see Big Trucks pulled over very often by the police — there is more revenue from truck fines than car fines — but big trucks also have special police giving them more fines checking them at weigh stations around North America.

Ms. Jelcich believes that trucks have an “influential lobby” that protects them from obeying the law. Nothing is further from the truth. Trucking is over-regulated, and everyone except kids seems to hate big trucks and truckers despite the fact that everything we have/use/eat comes by truck.

This accident is very sad and unfortunate. My condolences to all. If the trucker was at fault, his life is over. He will go to jail and have nightmares for the rest of his life.


‘Zero highway deaths’ goal needs general public target

Regulators' ultimate goal pondered, in light of the laundry list of highway-bill recommendations the MCSAC delivered to Congress two weeks back.

In closing, statistics show that the VAST MAJORITY of truck vs car accidents are caused by the car.

I apologize to Ms.Jelcich (and all other car drivers) on behalf of all professional, decent, courteous Truck Drivers for her (their) bad experiences with some bad apples.

This has got to stop, and the police must enforce our laws for everyone. –Rick Blatter, Laval, Quebec

  • Mike Smith

    We have a ship of fools running r country, and most of their ship hands, the Democratic/Communist Party, are fools too.

  • Mike Smith

    4 wheeler s should be required go through everything we have to: drug testing, inspections, driving time. Anything & everything.

  • Jeramie Reed

    I am so tired of people who have absolutely no idea what they are talking about being allowed to spout off these lies and make us all out to be something we most definitely are not. It is time to take a stand. We need to force our elected officials to actually do their jobs.

  • martymarsh

    Exactly what don’t you get about it being about control and the DOLLAR. The government has milked the word safety TO DEATH BECAUSE THEY FOUND A GOLD MINE IN IT, these clowns at all these so called safety groups like P.A.T.T. lobby to get the other clowns that know next to nothing about trucks to make laws, and then they can say here you go. You have the stupid leading the blind, or is that stupid leading stupid? This has become a big joke, and it never seems that anyone talks about the logic from the get go. Where the hell was everyone when they made these laws like the 14 hour BS? ANYONE that says you can regulate rest is a liar.

  • martymarsh

    I forgot to add, why write about the obvious, we know. It is the rest of the world that not only don’t know, but they don’t care. Party on.

  • William McKelvie

    Because it is horse manure, and more importantly it will NEVER happen. Stronger coffee I might suggest,

  • shortchange

    10/4 Marty its money bull shit walks. all the damn
    rules an regs don’t make it any more safer. it dont
    take any brains to figure that out. Safety has nothing
    to do with it they use the word safety to cover up their
    dirty deeds. just like everything else in Washington.

  • martymarsh

    I think it’s funny that people are this stupid, they are dumbing down America for a dollar, and we just sit back and take it.

  • Cindy Whitten Moore

    That will never happen because then the politicians would be subject to those rules; they will never pass a law that inconveniences them. They will just keep blaming the truck drivers and passing new laws to punish us and make our lives harder.

  • Jack Simon

    Politicians have chauffeurs. The laws that they make for us never apply to them.

  • Jack Simon

    For those that think that the Electronic logs will solve the problems, they are wrong too. I just unplugged mine and am driving on paper logs until the company can fix the program. The system does not understand any time under 5 minutes and if you spend 5 minutes in sleeper, off duty, or on duty and start to drive, the system will take the time and put you on the drive line. I had this happen recently when I was doing my DOT ‘nap time’ and the system put me in violation. I called and told them I am unplugging until they can fix the computer problem.

  • mousekiller

    They have been dumbing down our students for at least the past 25 years and they in turn grew to adults and due to their vote we have the current administration and it’s minions and followers. The only thing that is going to fix this is for all O/O’s to go on vacation at the same time. For one, CA will get the mesage as 80% of the produce is hauled by O/O’s.

  • martymarsh

    I couldn’t agree more.

  • James Clossey

    Why is Rick Blatter apologizing, truck drivers are doing a job,a highly regulated industry truck drivers get crapped on by shippers customers and their own companies/ dispatchers and by every idiot tall enough to sit in a car….maybe if the non-cdl holding community of drivers had to go through what truck drivers go through just to get and maintain a cdl maybe they would be little wiser out on the road…but I doubt it they’ll still drive like asshole like ms jelcich