Semi Safety: KEZI 9 News investigates dangerous truck drivers

KEZI 9 News spent several months combing through inspection data and working with state officials to see just how safe the trucking industry is, or isn't. This is part 1 of our 2-part investigation.

Posted: Feb. 19, 2018 5:24 PM
Updated: Feb. 20, 2018 11:38 AM

EUGENE, Ore. - There are more than 70,000 miles of public roads in Oregon. That's a lot of ground to cover for both truck drivers, and law enforcement watching over them.

"We can't stop them all. We can't inspect them all," said Trooper Kris Strubel, Oregon State Police.

He said there are too many truck drivers to keep an eye on everyone, but that's not to say they don't try.

"There's a headlight out on that truck right there," Strubel pointed out as we drove along Interstate 5 and the truck-in-question was heading in the opposite direction.

He said nearly every state trooper is a certified truck inspector. It's a second hat they wear that requires a keen eye for big rigs.

Strubel said they are on the lookout for drifty drivers to brake lines wearing thin.

"Honestly, they're pretty scary and they usually slow traffic down," said Cara Christofferson, driver.

Lane, Douglas, Coos, Benton, and Linn Counties saw nearly 4,500 safety violations in 2017. That's more than 400 safety violations than in 2016. In 2017, about 650 infractions were serious enough to put a driver out of service and more than 850 violations put a vehicle out of service.

Since 2014, more drivers have been put out of service every year. Overall, there's been a downward trend of trucks taken out of service.

"Truck drivers get paid for how much they drive, not by time," Strubel said. "So you get people driving way more than they should be. When they're fatigued, they're not stopping."

Driver fatigue is a chronic problem in the truck driving industry.

Stay with KEZI 9 News to find out what new federal law holds tired truckers more accountable. Plus, KEZI 9 News team up with the Oregon Department of Transportation, taking you underneath semi trucks to show you the hidden mechanical problems state inspectors look for.

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