Log Truck Drivers Face Extremely
Dangerous Work Conditions
By Jim Nielson, Owner of Jim Nielson Trucking
During the past five years, more log truck drivers
have been killed than in any other time in logging
industry. That was the message from a companysponsored
safety meeting held on the 24th of March. One of
the major contributing causes is a compensation system that
rewards risk taking and unsafe behaviors.
The spokesman from The Department of Labor and
Industries who spoke at the meeting was a wealth of information.
He talked about the need for constant vigilance in
the workplace. We all have an obligation to one another to
be on the lookout for dangerous situations. He said the primary
hazards involved were: excessive speed, tailgating,
driver inattention, load stability, and equipment failure. When I asked the L&I representative what he thought the
problems were, he said that the increased number of miles
we drive each day was the biggest contributing factor.
Here are some of the fatal facts I found. From 1998 to
2002, there were 11 log truck drivers who lost their lives. Of
the 11 who lost their lives: 6 trucks left the roadway, 2 were
involved in collisions on the roadway, 2 more lives were lost
loading and unloading; last, but not least, 1 was under
unknown circumstances. I personally know of 4 more who
have been killed since 2002. How does this happen? How
many don’t I know about? How many citizens have been
killed, or involved in accidents on our public roads?
I can’t answer all of the above questions, but that doesn’t
keep me from thinking about them. What I can tell you is
that number is far too high.
Allow me to give you my thoughts on all of this. I have
been in the timber industry for almost 38 years. I have been
an owner operator for 21 of those years. During the past 11
years the compensation systems have changed. In order to
stay in business I find that taking risks and engaging in
unsafe behaviors have become “business-as-usual.”
What I have experienced in the last 11 years is that to
generate enough revenue for my business, my employees
and I drive excessive hours to make up for the increased
miles we have to travel. We are expected to haul overweight
loads and to haul loads that are loaded in a manner not fit
for wood roads, let alone public thoroughfares. All of these
things lead to an unsafe work place for us, and ultimately to
the general safety of our citizens. If we are to lessen the
death rate in our industry, it is imperative that we start
doing things differently.
HB 3227, introduced at this legislative session, would have
done wonders in changing these problems. Allowing the
owner operators to openly negotiate their bottom line would
ensure that we would all be safer. Let’s not wait for another
loss of life, when we have the means to prevent it!
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