Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Carmel on the Case: Risk On The Roads
When it comes truck crashes, the Sunshine State ranks among the nation's worst. But are big rig drivers purposely taking risks on the roads? Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero takes a closer look in in tonight's Carmel On The Case.
WSVN -- "When the driver lost control, the tanker truck overturned on its left side and landed on top of a passenger vehicle," says an FHP trooper at the scene of an accident.
We have all seen the pictures.
Horrific crashes that at the worst become life and death nightmares and at the least become traffic nightmares.
There's big trouble with big trucks in South Florida.
Miami-Dade officer Roy Scalberg is a truck expert.
Officer Scalberg: "We're gonna check your steering. I'd like you to rock the steering wheel back and forth."
On this day he and other instructors teach officers from throughout South Florida what to look for when they make traffic stops.
And what they find is frightening.
From bad tires?
Officer Scalberg: "So it wears a little more and the tire explodes."
To a defect that could lead to a loss of steering.
Officer Scalberg: "When he's loaded he's about 70,000 pounds. You tell me when you got 70,000 pounds going down the road with no steering, what does that do to the other motorists on the road?"
When possible, repairs are made on the scene.
But when that's impossible... trucks are ordered off the road.
That's what happened with this 60,000 pound cement truck.
A light that warns if there isn't enough air pressure for breaks - was broken.
Truck driver Ramondo Suarez: "This morning I have a light, but now I have no light."
Officer Scalberg: "But it's not working?"
Suarez: "It's not working."
Officer Scalberg: "Dangerous?"
Ramondo Suarez: "Yeah, it?s dangerous. Very dangerous."
This was the second truck with the same problem.
Officer Scalberg: "So if you're in front of 70,000 pounds, and he can't stop? No, thank you."
Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero: "These trucks have been ordered off the road and out of service. They'll be towed away. Each time that there's an enforcement action like this, 80 to 90 are taken off the road because they're dangerous. And this is all in a three-hour period."
Officer Scalberg: "So, with that, he's out of service."
This truck has a problem that's hard to miss... Oil leaking from a defective seal on a steering axle.
It's a potential catastrophe if all the oil leaks out.
Officer Scalberg: "As he's going along, it heats up. He wipes out the bearing. The bearing is no good anymore - the tire comes off."
Truck drivers are responsible for the condition of the vehicle they're driving, even if they are not the owner.
But as one company driver told me-- on the condition we not identify him-- repairs are often not made, even when drivers report trouble.
Truck driver: "You can get fired for that."
Carmel Cafiero: "Fired for complaining about safety issues?"
Truck driver: "Yes, it is true."
He says, like other drivers, he gets behind the wheel of defective vehicles because he has a family to support.
The Florida Trucking Association says its member companies believe there is nothing more important than safety and that professional drivers should never risk public safety.
Carmel cafiero: "How dangerous a truck have you ever driven on the road?"
Truck driver: "Like if you say from 100 percent to 50 percent, it's 90 percent dangerous."
We discovered that while police were pulling trucks off the main road, others had pulled off on a side road apparently waiting for authorities to leave.
One can only speculate about the condition of those trucks.
If there's something you think we should investigate - give me a call or send me an e-mail.
It could be our next project.
If you have a story for Carmel:
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE