Should cameras along major interstates and roads be set to record and not just provide a live feed?
Authorities and politicians in Northern California think so. In response to an increase in deadly freeway shootings near the Bay Area, the Los Angeles Times reports that the City of Pittsburg, Calif. will be setting up more cameras in the hopes of collecting more evidence of drivers gone mad.
Unfortunately, cameras on Interstate 10 in Jacksonville, Fla. where trucker George Guerrero was shot to death two weeks ago by a fellow truck driver provide only a live feed and do not record, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Ours is an age of information. Whether it’s cell phones, social media, email, cameras, radio, TV, GPS, or highway message boards, gathering and disseminating critical information has never been easier or as widespread.
But clearly there are gaps and challenges, and not all of the blame can be placed on highway cameras that do not record.
A few months ago, a trucker recalled how frustrating it was when no one would acknowledge the warnings he kept issuing on his CB about a large accident on Interstate 90 in Erie, Pennsylvania. With plenty of snow on the ground and challenging visibility along the way, the trucker kept trying to warn others about the accident. But he didn’t get the slightest 10-4 in return.
He found out later that the pile-up had continued to grow, as unwitting drivers, including those in big rigs, plowed right into the mile-long melee. What started out as a 10 to 15 vehicle pile-up worked its way up to 85, including 12 trucks.
In a video he later posted on YouTube, he asked drivers to turn their CBs on and listen up more. He said he understood why truckers weren’t listening to their radios as much: from nonsensical, annoying chatter to downright rude and confrontational jerks. While squelch clears up some of the garble, it can’t change attitudes.
But it’s not just bad attitudes that will cause folks to tune-out and miss-out on vital information. As Lori Heino-Royer, director of business innovation at Daimler Trucks North America, said recently at ACT Expo in Long Beach, the sheer amount of information that we’re bombarded with on a daily basis makes it challenging to determine and order our priorities.
For truck drivers, their priorities are not only effected by the latest on-ramp of information, but also by the vital need for physical safety as they take on challenging traffic.
A trucker, who’s thinking of quitting the business because of road rage incidents, recently posted a comment on one of the stories HWT published on Guerrero’s death. He first points out that authorities, including the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, are incorrect to think that violence between truckers is unusual. In fact, he says, it’s getting worse.
“Sorry to say sheriff, it (road rage) happens a lot more frequently than you know. Over the last week, keep in mind one week, I had two drivers from the same company attempt to run me off the road after tailgating me for fifteen minutes. I was so light (10,000 pounds) and it was windy. He was so close all I saw was the end of his trailer in my mirrors.
“I had to tap my brakes to straighten out my trailer. He came around me apparently angry (because he was sending my trailer all over the lane) that he got in front of me and slammed on his brakes hard, not a tap like I had. I had to take evasive action and move to the hammer lane. He then started over into the hammer lane and his trailer was in the middle of my tractor. He ran me past the rumble strip in the median before I could slow down from my original speed.
“I called highway patrol and they told me they were too busy right now due to wind related issues. What a joke. They tell us to call and then they won’t do anything. Later on his buddy from the same company passed me and came two feet into my lane. That was in Nebraska. Two days ago his buddy did the same thing to me three times in California. What can we do with drivers like this on the road who do not have enough experience to know the difference between tapping the brake because they are following you too close or an angry jab?
“It’s gotten so dangerous out here the last 12 years I’ve been driving. Makes ya think twice about staying in the industry.”
So, back to priorities. We constantly hear about driver shortages and high driver turn-over. The American Trucking Associations reported late last month: “The annualized turnover rate for large truckload fleets rose two percentage points in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 102%.”
Concerning that stat, ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello wrote, “This elevated turnover rate shows that the driver market remains a challenge for truckload fleets. Obviously, attracting and retaining drivers remains a top concern for the industry.”
For the past two weeks, Hard Working Trucks made several calls to ATA hoping to get feedback on the topic of aggressive driving, but none of those calls have been returned.
Guerrero’s needless death is a priority and law enforcement groups have been treating it as such. They’ve followed up on plenty of tips and have even stopped trucks that fit the description of the orange 2000-2005 Freightliner Century flattop sleeper cab that the suspect was seen driving on May 4 near Exit 351 when he shot Guerrero to death.
But they need more help. They need the trucking community to continue to make this case a priority and to key-up, so to speak, when they think they’ve got some vital information to share.
They also need those cameras set to record. You can’t help but think that one still image or two taken from video may have revealed a license plate or other information that could have led to this man’s arrest.
As it stands, live feed cameras have done nothing to take a murderous truck driver off the roads. Yes, live feed cameras can reveal traffic and crimes in progress, but once a major event has passed—that’s it, it’s gone. There is no play back. Authorities then have to rely on witnesses and hope that maybe someone got a picture or even video, though it’s illegal for drivers to participate in such activities while driving.
With competing priorities constantly changing and keeping us forever on the edge of our seats, let’s not forget Guerrero, the main breadwinner for his family, who once played an important role in the trucking industry and is now dead and gone while his murderer keeps on trucking.