Daphne Izer watches tractor-trailers fly past on their way to the Maine Turnpike at the Auburn interchange Tuesday afternoon. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LISBON — Instead of catering to the trucking industry by loosening regulations, the federal government ought to be taking steps to make people safer, according to a Lisbon couple who lost their son to a 1993 accident involving a tired trucker on the Maine Turnpike.

“It’s just not right” to make it easier for truckers to log long hours on the road, said Daphne Izer, who founded Parents Against Tired Truckers a quarter-century ago.

The U.S. Transportation Department is pushing for more flexible rules that would make it possible for some truckers to spend more hours behind the wheel.

That “doesn’t look like it’s pro-safety,” Izer said. “It’s crazy.”

For Steve and Daphne Izer, it is more than an academic issue.

On October 10, 1993, their 17-year-old son, Jeff, took the family car and headed to a haunted hayride in Gorham with four friends.

When the car overheated on the way, he pulled over into the breakdown lane.

Soon after, with no warning, a sleep-deprived trucker creamed them, crushing the car with a rig pulling 80,000 pounds of goods for Walmart and leaving Jeff Izer and three others dead. The crash seriously injured a 15-year-old as well, but she survived.

Daphne Izer said she noticed a police car in her driveway as she headed for bed that night. A state trooper delivered the news that her son “didn’t make it.”

“He was killed,” Steve Izer said, cut down by a trucker who had faked his logbooks to dodge the minimal standards governing haulers in those days.

The driver wound up serving just three months in jail — for lying in his logbooks.

Determined to tighten the regulations to try to protect others, the couple created PATT in 1994 and have helped lead the fight on the issue ever since.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration statistics.

They pressed lawmakers and regulators to beef up the rules to limit the number of exhausted drivers.

One change, which President Donald Trump’s administration is not proposing to peel back, was a 2017 rule that required the use of electronic logs that automatically record driving time, largely eliminating the problem of faking hours.

But the administration is seeking changes that would extend the hours some drivers would be on the road or at least at work, a move sought by the trucking industry so that haulers could potentially take breaks during heavy traffic or bad weather without having that time count against them.

Daphne Izer said, though, that studies have shown that drivers get tired after eight hours, and extending their days to as many as 17 hours greatly increases the possibility of a crash. The rule change, she said, could keep fatigued drivers on the road.

Izer said the country “needs trucking” and she is not against it.

But, she said, “no load of freight is worth a human life,” so the rules ought to do what they can to keep everyone safe.

Steve Izer said the reality is that people do not pay much attention to the issue “until there’s blood on the highway” and the consequences hit home.

Daphne Izer said the couple have been lobbying on Capitol Hill for decades, attending conferences and doing what they can to keep the issue of tired truckers front and center.

Both Izers are convinced their efforts have made a difference.

“If we weren’t around, things would be worse out there,” Daphne Izer said. “We know we’ve saved lives.”

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration statistics.

 


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