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Investigator: Six out of 10 trucks found unsafe

3:38 AM, Nov 16, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Truck driver Steve Berardinelli had to quit his job because he was afraid he was going to kill someone or himself.

"I put a lot of innocent lives in danger," said Berardinelli. He complained to The Investigator Tom Meyer that he was forced to drive 80 hours a week, or 20 hours in excess of government regulations.

"I was forced to drive illegal. I fell asleep at the wheel and woke up, not knowing where I was. I was scared to death," said Berardinelli.

State inspectors say overworked truck drivers are a common problem they find while doing inspections. At the I-76 weigh station in Wadsworth, Ohio Highway Patrol troopers routinely pull trucks off the road because they're considered too unsafe to drive. 

Generally, one out of every four trucks is given a red "out of service" sticker. But surprisingly, veteran inspector Tom Michael says of the trucks he inspects, six out of every 10 are considered hazardous to operate. 

"It seems maintenance has taken a back seat," Michael said.

Michael found one big rig with four of its 10 brakes defective. He said faulty brakes are a common problem. The same driver was cited for having a damaged strap used to secure a heavy load.

The American Trucking Association said trucks aren't as bad off as state inspectors make them out to be.  In an e-mail to channel 3 news, the association said: "trucks are not selected randomly for inspection.  Instead,enforcement agencies prioritize the worst offenders for inspections based on violation history, observed violations, personal experince, etc. Hence, trucks selected for inspection will intuitively  have much higher violation rates."

Sergeant E Rivera of the Ohio Highway Patrol says inspectors target only about a third of the trucks they inspect. 

State inspectors yank drivers off the road too. About one out of every 20 are removed from service for a variety of reasons, including log book violations, drugs, and alcohol.

The state inspects more than 76,000 trucks a year.  While that may seem like a lot, it's only a fraction of the trucks that travel Ohio highways.

The trucking industry argues that the safety record of trucks has never been better, saying injuries and fatalities have dropped more than 30 per cent over the last decade.

Some truckers complain that state inspections are done to generate revenue, but Sergeant Rivera argues it has nothing to do with revenue and everything to do with safety.

"Violations are putting not only your family's life in danger, but my own family," said Rivera. 

WKYC-TV

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