BOSTON (CBS) – The impact of a crash with a driver of a fully loaded tractor trailer can be devastating. According to Don Lane, Regional Director for New England Tractor Trailer Training School, these trucks can be deadly if not driven properly. “You can kill a lot of people, and obviously if you are driving under the influence, it’s extremely bad,” he said.
That’s what police in New Hampshire say happened last summer. A Massachusetts truck driver was allegedly under the influence and on the wrong side of the road when he slammed into a group of Marine motorcyclists, killing seven and injuring several others.
Manny Ribeiro, the President of JarHeads, was with the group and said it was nothing he had ever seen in his life, telling WBZ, “It was awful.”
Months later, in Vermont, police say a near disaster was avoided when another Massachusetts truck driver who was allegedly drunk drove ten miles on the wrong side of the interstate.
The National Highway Safety Administration says the number of fatal crashes involving drivers of large trucks is on the rise, from 4,019 in 2015 to 4600 in 2017. “People need formal training to drive one of these trucks. There’s a lot going on and you can do a lot of damage in a hurry,” Lane said.
The Federal government has recommended commercial drivers get training, but currently does not require it. According to Lane, there are no minimum standards. With a sponsor who has a commercial driver’s license, someone could rent a truck and pass the test and get a license to drive a big rig.
We went out on the road with Lane, who says New England Tractor Trailer Training School trains nearly 3000 drivers a year. According to Lane, the program is performance based and exceeds the federal recommendations.
Student drivers are taught to be aware of everything around them, practice speed and space management. He explained that these trucks do not stop like a car and that trucks need a greater stopping distance. Wet roads are also a challenge, presenting the possibility of skidding which is the worst thing that can happen to a driver.
Last summer’s fatal New Hampshire crash the exposed serious failures by the Registry of Motor Vehicles to get potentially dangerous drivers off the road. The I-Team has learned that this year, the registry suspended the licenses of 1189 commercial drivers and tells us there will be more suspensions before the end of the year.
Governor Baker has proposed legislation to tighten the regulations for truck drivers, but did not include mandatory training in his bill.
State Representative Adrian Madaro says he thinks it is something the legislature should look at. Madaro is the vice chair of the joint committee on transportation and tells the I-Team safety is the committee’s top priority. He also told us the governor proposed a number of things and believes looking at mandating training for all truck drivers could potentially make the roads safer.
Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced it would require mandatory training for all commercial drivers starting in February of 2020. Not long after that announcement, the agency proposed a two year extension for compliance.