Tulsa Trucking Company Working To Fight Driver Fatigue

Tuesday, September 28th 2010, 9:34 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OKLAHOMA -- The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday a 2009 crash on I-44 that killed ten people could have been prevented.

The NTSB said 77-year-old Donald Creed was likely suffering from fatigue when the tractor trailer he was driving slammed into a row of cars on the Will Rogers Turnpike in June 2009.

The NTSB recommended companies take driver fatigue seriously and that collision avoidance technology and video recorders become standard issue on all tractor trailers.

9/28/2010 Related Story: NTSB Cites Fatigue In 2009 I-44 Crash That Killed 10 Motorists

A Tulsa trucking company says it and others in the industry are already working to fight fatigue. Melton Trucking say they're outfitting their trucks with top of the line equipment and keeping their drivers in tip-top shape to make sure the open road is a safe one.

"That was a horrible crash that took place," said Russ Elliott, Melton Trucking Senior Vice President of Operations. "And certainly anybody involved in the industry had to stop and say, oh my gosh."

Federal officials said Creed suffered from a mild case of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that can be associated with daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

"Sleep apnea is a problem not only for the trucking industry but for all industries," Elliot said.

Melton Trucking says to help its drivers, it turned what used to be a smoking lounge into a workout room. Melton truckers can work out with a certified wellness coordinator. They're studying sleep apnea, running comprehensive blood tests, and trying to get their drivers on the road to good health.

"Our most precious commodity are our truck drivers. They're our business. If they're a healthy bunch, it's better for our company and for the public as well," Elliot said.

Elliott says Melton is also test driving some new technology to track the amount of time drivers spend behind the wheel.

"And it gives an electronic picture of how many hours the truck has operated with the driver as versus to the paper log situation that's currently in place," he said.

He says Melton also upgraded its fleet with technology that alerts drivers if they veer out of their lanes. The folks at Melton think the improvements are working and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says truck-related accidents are at an all time low.

"That leads me to believe that all of the initiatives that we've taken as an industry and definitely as a company that we're headed in the right direction," he said.

Federal regulators changed the rules in 2004, mandating a trucker can only be on the clock for 14 hours in a 24- hour period and they must rest for at least ten.

The American Trucking Association says since then, truck-related traffic deaths have dropped by a third.