Wrong Turn Caused Big Rig Wreck

Lufkin traffic came to a stand still Thursday night near Highway 59 South after a big rig driver made a wrong turn.

Robert Smith of Fort Worth was headed south towards the bridge at Daniel McCall and Brentwood when his truck got stuck.

He ignored the 'no truck' sign and tried to make a u-turn. His 18-wheeler damaged the guard rail, but instead of backing up and getting out of the area, Smith kept going. His back wheels got caught over the overpass where two cranes had to get him out.

Eighteen wheeler wrecks are not uncommon. Driver error is often to blame, but some truckers believe a new law, that tightens restrictions on driving hours, is also making their job more dangerous.

Wayne Downing said, "If you're going from Dallas to Houston, you have to go from Dallas to Houston - and if you get tired, you can't stop and sleep because your time clock's still running. Before, you could sleep two hours, stop the clock and be rested, and go on."

Downing also has another theory about why so many big rig drivers are getting in trouble behind the wheel.

"I think a lot of companies are hiring inexperienced drivers - just right out of driving school."

Some truckers say being tired and unable to sleep leads to poor decision-making behind the wheel, which often leads to accidents.

"I see more drivers sleep going down the road, run off in the median, and roll their trucks."

Federal regulations for truckers changed for the first time in 60 years in January 2004.

Interstate commercial drivers are now limited to 11 hours of driving time or 14 hours on duty, before having to take a 10-hour break. Before, rules allowed for a 15-hour day with 10 hours of driving. That didn't include down time for food, fuel-ups, and loading and unloading as part of the total workday.

The regulation changes are intended to save 75 lives a year by reducing fatigue, but many truck drivers are skeptical the new rules are working like they're intended.

Robert Smith got several citations Thursday including disregard for traffic control, license and weight violations.