How To Make Trucks Safer On Highways

Guests:

William Cassidy, managing editor at the Journal of Commerce
Dan Little, owner of Little & Little Trucking Company in Carrollton, MO

Last year, over 4,000 people died as a result of truck related accidents. As part of NPR's series, On The Road To Safety, guests look at what's being done to make big rig driving on the long haul safer for truck drivers and for motorists.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

You know the feeling, heading home for Thanksgiving, you're on the interstate sandwiched between two 18-wheelers, praying both drivers can see you. Without those big rigs, your Thanksgiving table might well be bare. Trucks move nearly 70 percent of all freight tonnage in the country - virtually all U.S. goods touch a truck during at least one leg of the supply train. But even if you didn't know that more than 4000 people died in large truck crashes last year, the size alone can be pretty scary when you see a Peterbilt in your rear view mirror.

Fatigue and distraction can be problems for all drivers. Truckers can spend up to 11 hours at a time behind the wheel. As part of NPR's series On The Road To Safety, we focus on the men and women in those necessary behemoths. So, truckers, what would make your long haul safer? Do the rules work? What don't the rest of us understand about sharing the roads with big rigs?

Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, �Ask Amy's� Amy Dickinson on the art of the gracious comeback. If you've issued or received a well-worded retort, email us, talk@npr.org. But first, big trucks On The Road To Safety. And, well, let's begin with a caller. Tom is joining us from Pendleton, Indiana. Tom?

TOM (Caller): Yes, sir.

CONAN: Are you a truck driver?

TOM: Yes, I am. Have been for 30 years.

CONAN: And what is it the rest of us don't get about sharing the road with an 18-wheeler?

TOM: Well, it seems a lot of people think that we can maneuver as quickly or as adroitly as they can. I've got a vehicle that's 75-feet long. I can lay up to 80,000 pounds on my load. Even empty I'm 36,000 pounds. It take me longer to stop - up to three times as long to stop a vehicle as you do. Also, I can't turn as quickly as you do. And anytime I turn the wheel the slightest bit, I'm putting myself in a jackknife situation.

CONAN: A jackknife is - you could easily get the cab and the trailer out of alignment and cause a terrible accident.

TOM: Yes. I mean, even in a lane change, you're - anytime you turn the wheel you're in a potential jackknife.

CONAN: Does it scare you when cars get too close to your front bumper? In other words, if you have trouble stopping - you're not trouble stopping, just the laws of physics, you can't stop that quickly.

TOM: Well, I have - I have a VORAD system in my truck - it's a forward-looking radar and it's tied-in to my cruise control. If a vehicle gets too close to me, it automatically slows me down - maybe it will even apply me brakes�

CONAN: Good.

TOM: �without me touching them.

CONAN: That's great. How long has it been since you've had that installed?

TOM: This - our company has been putting these on the trucks, I think, for the last six years.

CONAN: That's a great advance in technology. Have you seen go into action?

TOM: Yes, several times.

CONAN: And do you think it saved you from an accident?

TOM: A lot of times. One time in the (unintelligible) it actually stopped me from running into a car that was stopped dead in the middle of the road and I could not see it.

CONAN: Wow. All right, well, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

TOM: All right, thank you.

CONAN: And have a happy Thanksgiving.

TOM: You, too. Thank you.

CONAN: Bye, bye. William Cassidy is managing editor at the Journal of Commerce and covers the trucking industry, domestic and surface transport. He joins us today here in Studio 3A. Nice to have you on the program.

Mr. WILLIAM CASSIDY (Managing Editor, Journal of Commerce): Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: And technological advances like the one we just heard about - well, that's part of making big rigs safer.

Mr. CASSIDY: It's a really big part of it. And there are going to be more and more advances of that type. The VORAD system is like a radar-based system that actually ties into a truck's engine and braking systems. I think we're going to see more of those advancements in the very near future. A lot of things are already out there. There are a lot of rear systems that allow a trucker to know what's behind him as well as what's in front of him, and will alert the driver if another car or vehicle is approaching his or her truck.

CONAN: As a blind spot.

Mr. CASSIDY: The blind spot. I mean, those things are going to become more and more common. A big question is going to be, will they be mandated by the federal government or will companies be installing them on their own? How that will work out is yet to be seen but there's a lot of interest in such technology.

CONAN: And though there's still a terrifyingly large number of people killed on the road in this country every year, about a hundred people a day on average, we have been doing better. What about the truck part of that - are truckers involved in fewer wrecks?

Mr. CASSIDY: The truck part has clearly become better over the years, especially the past 10 to 20 years. The farther you go back, the better the improvement is. I think that if you look from 2000 through 2007, the last year from when full statistics were available, the fatalities alone in fatal truck crashes decreased by about nine percent, I believe. And if the preliminary figures that were released last week by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hold up, there will have been a 12 percent reduction from 2008 -over from 2007 into 2008.

CONAN: Yeah, because statistics takes a few years to catch up.

Mr. CASSIDY: Exactly. There's a lot of data they have to crunch. So, there's about a 12 percent reduction in - fatalities from large truck accidents.

CONAN: Here is an Email from Bruce in Oakland. In most areas of California, the speed limit for trucks is 55 miles an hour. I rarely see this obeyed or enforced. Truckers seem to have a reverse incentive to drive fast, reduce safety, and increase emissions. What can be done to slow down the big rigs? First of all, is there an incentive to drive fast?

Mr. CASSIDY: In some cases there is. There's also an incentive to be safe, however, too. The incentive to drive fast, you might say, comes from the fact that in most cases, especially for a long haul truck load carriage, truckers are paid by the mile, as was mentioned earlier in the program. And if you're not driving, if you're not making miles, you're not making the money. Now, the other side of that is, if you're pushing that envelope into illegal operation and you're operating in an unsafe fashion, well, if you don't get there, you don't make money either.

CONAN: There are also certain situations on the backside, back slope of a mountain, it's going to be difficult to keep a truck to 55.

Mr. CASSIDY: It can be very difficult. I'm sure that many of our listeners would attest to that.

CONAN: I've seen situations where - in Tennessee, for example, coming down into Chattanooga, it seems the highway patrol just sets up on that back ridge of that mountain and just nails people as they're going too fast.

Mr. CASSIDY: Mm-hmm, yeah. And, you know, I think too that there is, you know, there is an issue in terms of trucking in that, there are many types of trucking operations. Some are paid - some drivers are paid by the mile, some drivers are paid by hourly wage. Some drivers drive three weeks at a time all over the country, others drive pre-set routes every day and are home every night and every weekend.

So, there are, when you're out on the highway and you see these trucks rolling by, they all look the same. But they really represent very different types of businesses, different types of operations, and perhaps different types of risks as well.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Ed. Ed calling us from I-40 in North Carolina.

ED (Caller): Yes, how are you?

CONAN: I'm good, thanks.

ED: Yeah, I would like to just make a comment about the 11 hour rule. We are, of course, we got a fairly complicated set of time limits and so on that we work by. I believe the, you know, when you tell the public that we can drive up to 11 hours probably everybody is horrified because they don't drive 11 hours. The point that I would like to make that I learned from my first instructor and I've learned from experience, driving a truck does not tire a person out like driving a car.

CONAN: And why is that?

ED: Well, I've given it a lot of thought, and the only thing I know to say is you learn a new set of skills and driving a truck demands more of you and I think it just takes less out of you.

CONAN: Hmm.

ED: A friend of mine asked me once, he said if you had to take a long trip, would you rather drive a car or the big truck? I said, oh, I'll take the big truck, you know, with no problem. It's just not that fatiguing, and believe me, I've spent a lot of time behind the wheel of cars, and I'd rather take the truck.

CONAN: Are you driving right now?

ED: Yes, sir, I am.

CONAN: And one has to ask the question: Distracted driving, there's a lot of things that demand your attention in that cab.

ED: Yes, and I believe that is why - I believe that is why it's less fatiguing. I just feel that that's the case because we do have to pay more attention. We're not caught by surprise very much, like we might be if we are in a car.

CONAN: Ed, I have to ask you two questions. First of all, when you drive a car, do you drive differently than other people in a car because of your experience as a truck driver?

ED: Well, I would say when I get home in the truck, and I get behind the wheel of my car, it takes me a few minutes, maybe, to adjust. But then once I get in the car, then I drive the car like everybody else, except that I have learned to be more vigilant, and so I am more vigilant. I just - I watch farther ahead and watch all around me more in the car.

CONAN: All right, the other question: Are you going to be able to get home for Thanksgiving?

ED: I'll be home in probably another couple of hours.

CONAN: Well, good luck to you, Ed, thanks very much, and have a great holiday.

ED: Okay, thanks, Sir.

CONAN: Bye-bye. It's interesting, as you listen to people like Ed talk, stamina is something you can learn, but 11 hours behind the wheel in a day, that's a lot.

Mr. CASSIDY: That's a long time, and it is interesting that he says it's less fatiguing to drive a truck than it is to drive a car. You know, I might question whether it's less fatiguing to him because he does this for a living. He's out there every day, driving however many hours he has to drive, whereas if you and I get in the car and drive for 11 hours, it's - let's not try it.

CONAN: It's a rare occasion.

Mr. CASSIDY: It's a rare occasion, so we're going to be tired at the end of that.

CONAN: Well, stamina is something you can learn and develop. Nevertheless, a lot of people would say wow, you've got to be tired at least part of the time.

Mr. CASSIDY: I would certainly, you know, think so and worry about that if I were in that position. And this brings up the whole issue of the hours-of-service rules, which are now going to be revised again for the fourth time, I believe, in this decade.

CONAN: And revised downward this time, do you think?

Mr. CASSIDY: I think it's a strong possibility. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, earlier this year, announced that they would revisit the hours-of-service rules that were published in January, that became effective in January of this year. They became effective just before President Obama's inauguration.

Those rules are the 11-hour driving limit, 14-hour total working time limit, 10 hours of mandatory rest. They replaced, back in 2003, a set of rules that went back to the 1930s, which allowed for 10 hours of driving time and 15 hours of total work time, on-duty time, eight hours of rest - but allowed you to also break up your driving time with off-duty breaks.

Now, when you get behind the wheel in the morning, 11 hours later, you have to stop.

CONAN: We're talking with Bill Cassidy, the managing editor at the Journal of Commerce, who covers the trucking industry. We want to hear from truckers today. What don't the rest of us get about sharing the road with 18-wheelers? What would make your job safer? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CASSIDY: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. A brief programming note. On Monday, comedian Charlie Murphy joins us here in the studio. If you're going to be in Washington, D.C., and you'd like to be part of the studio audience, drop us an email. The address is talk@npr.org. Put Charlie Murphy in the subject line. Be sure to tell us your name, how many seats you'd like and a phone number where we can reach you. We'll write back if we can confirm your seats.

Today, though, we're talking about big-rig trucks and traffic safety. Are we doing enough to make roads safer? Truckers, what would make your long hauls safer? What do the rest of us not get about sharing the road with an 18-wheeler? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Joining us now is Dan Little, the owner of the Little & Little Trucking Company in Carrollton, Missouri, a veteran truck driver himself. He's with us today from his home. Nice to have you on the show today.

Mr. DAN LITTLE (Owner, Little & Little Trucking Company): Thank you for having me.

CONAN: And I wonder, as we talk about the rest of us don't get about driving, sharing the road with a truck, it might begin with what the driver experiences in the cab itself. A lot of us think it's just a bigger version of a car.

Mr. LITTLE: Well, I've never found it to be a bigger version of a car. I think that's a misconception. A lot of people that are out there today that get into cars believe that they can pull out in front of a truck, and you know, they think if a truck - if they don't get in front of the truck, they'll be five minutes late wherever they're going. But that truck is, a lot of times, weighing 70,000, 80,000 pounds. He cannot stop on a dime. So when they pull out in front of that truck to go two blocks down the street and turn left, they are basically putting their life at the mercy of mechanics, not the driver himself, but the mechanics.

Brakes just don't work that way. They don't work that way in air brakes, they don't work that way on trains, and they sure don't work that way on cars.

CONAN: From your perspective, what's the most urgent thing to make - that would make trucking safer?

Mr. LITTLE: Education. Education starting in high school.

CONAN: Education of all drivers.

Mr. LITTLE: Of all drivers, not just truck drivers. The new FMCSA 2010 rules and regulations that are coming out are designed by our government to immediately remove, and on the lower - on the low end or conservative figures, they will immediately remove 175,000 truck drivers off the road.

CONAN: This is - CSA 2010 is the Comprehensive Safety Analysis initiative. Why do you say it's going to cost that many jobs?

Mr. LITTLE: Well, that's just the early estimates. It's designed to do that. The people that made this, designed this for the FMCSA, was led by Mr. Madsen from the Volpe Center, very intelligent individual but has never held a CDL, has never been in the cab of a truck that we can find anywhere, nor has any of his team.

They look at statistics. They're saying that statistically, drivers that have a side marker light out are unsafe. This new system will keep track of each driver. It'll basically get rid of fix-it tickets. Fix-it tickets will be - if highway patrol or DOT pulls you over, and you had a marker light out, he'd write you a fix-it ticket.

CONAN: Get it fixed, and if it's not fixed by the next time, then you're going to get a serious ticket.

Mr. LITTLE: He gives you 15 days to get it fixed, to give the ticket to your company. They sign off that it was fixed, and they mail it back in, and therefore, it's no violation. You'll still get the fix-it ticket, but now there will be a point violation assessed against that driver.

Once those points reach a certain number, then it's called an intervention. The intervention is the firing of that driver. That driver is - that record then follows that driver for three years, making it unable for him to get a job with any trucking company for the next three years.

CONAN: I have to ask Bill Cassidy, of Journal of Commerce, do you concur with this analysis of these proposed rules?

Mr. CASSIDY: Hi, Dan. I don't know about the estimate of the number of drivers. I would not be - you know, I'm sure that that is - Dan, I take it that's the FMCSA's own estimate?

Mr. LITTLE: Those are direct from analysts that have looked at the whole system, and they've talked to the FMCSA, and if you call there and talk to them, they basically avoid the question 100 percent.

CONAN: So it's not from the FMCSA.

Mr. LITTLE: No.

Mr. CASSIDY: Okay, this is a much tougher system. Dan is quite right about that. It will, for the first time, put FMCSA into the area of driver management to this depth - to this level.

CONAN: To this level of detail.

Mr. CASSIDY: Yes.

Mr. LITTLE: Question, just a quick question. How many DAC report, and DAC was basically the same system, years ago, used by major carriers. How many DAC reports held listings or items on that wasn't valid or that was incorrectly listed? How many credit reports nationwide have items on them that are incorrect?

CONAN: Well, you're getting down to a level that most of our listeners are not going to understand.

Mr. CASSIDY: But I think he has - I think a really good point, Dan, in that one major concern over the CSA 2010 system, is that the information that goes into the databases - the system will only be as good as the information that is fed into the databases. And there is concern over uniformity among the states, the way they collect information, the types of reports they make, the reasons they make certain reports.

There's concern that that could certainly skew the system or lead to some of the problems Dan is alluding to.

CONAN: Also, there are a lot of computer systems that have flaws in them, just mistakes, and this can cost people. But CSA 2010, do you think it will make drivers and, indeed, everybody on the road, safer? Dan Little?

Mr. LITTLE: No, I don't. I don't see how it is going to make anybody any safer. What it's going to do is it's going to take a lot of drivers out there, that are on the road today, that are very qualified, very experienced, and it's going to put them off the road, and it's going to put a bunch of students right out of school that have two weeks, three weeks behind the wheel of a truck out there running.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with anybody learning. Please, don't take it that way, but it's going to put them out there on the road, and when they do get into a spot, how are they going to handle it without years of experience -in any field?

You know, experience counts. If you look at this new CSA 2010, it has an area on there for fatigue, and the DOT officer is supposed to be able to look and tell if the driver is fatigued or not. Now, Minnesota is being sued right now by OOIDA. I'm the president of Owner Operators United, which is a drivers' association. OOIDA, O-O-I-D-A, is another drivers' association, the largest, as a matter of fact, and they have a class action lawsuit in Minnesota right now on the same deal.

Minnesota came out with fatigue. The state patrol officers were to consider, in the evaluation of driver fatigue, the considerations they were to follow, were: driver physical condition, his neck size. Was he dirty? Was he unshaven? Did he have noticeable body odor? Reading material, books, magazines or papers in his truck? Was he irritable, overly agreeable? Did he have financial worries? That one cracks me up. Who, today, doesn't have financial worries? Was his truck clean? Did the truck smell? Did he have a TV, a DVD, a videogame system in his sleeper on his truck. If he did, then he was fatigued. Did he have a cell phone? If he did, he's fatigued. The condition of the cab; did he have papers on the floor in the cab? Then he's fatigued. Was his trash can in his truck full? If so, he was fatigued. Did he have restless leg syndrome, acid reflux syndrome, did he have dental problems, active dreams, wake up during the night to go to the bathroom or sleepwalking? If so, he's fatigued.

And how are these highway patrol and DOT qualified - how can they even claim to be qualified to make those judgment calls, to put those guys out of work, get rid of 175,000 jobs that'll not be replaced? This - the FMCSA's own report said that they went back three years and looked at all the audits that had been done on trucks in the last three years, and had those been done under the FMCSA's 2010 ruling, 49 percent of all trucking companies would fail - 49 percent.

CONAN: And well, in the interest of safety, some people can understand putting further strictures on drivers and companies to make life simpler. And I'm no expert on these rules, but some of them sound pretty reasonable.

Mr. LITTLE: I understand safety, and I'm an advocate for safety. If a driver is drugged up, if a driver is not qualified to drive, if the driver is going about his business in an unsafe manner, by all means get him off the road.

CONAN: All right. Dan Little, thanks very much, and we hope you have a happy Thanksgiving.

Mr. LITTLE: Yes, Sir, thank you.

CONAN: Dan Little joined us from his home today. He's the owner of Little & Little Trucking in Carrollton, Missouri.

So what is it we don't understand about sharing the road with 18-wheelers? Still with us is Bill Cassidy, managing editor at the Journal of Commerce, and let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's go to - this is Gene, Gene with us from Cleveland.

GENE (Caller): Hi, Neal. How are you?

CONAN: I'm good, thanks.

GENE: That's good. Yeah. I'm rolling down the road on I-71, and I am a newer driver. I've been a driver a little over a year. My comment has to do - well, first of all, I agree with the last caller on education.

CONAN: Yeah.

GENE: I - you know, most people out here got their license at 16 and had never been called to account for what they know about driving ever since. And I also agree with the first caller about the fact that I don't find truck driving as fatiguing as car driving. Largely, I think because, first of all, you do train yourself for it, and second of all, because you are so hyper-vigilant on things. When you're in a car, you get kind of rogue by the fact that you're in a car and it's so easy to maneuver. And you just kind of get that stare. Well, you can't do that in a truck.

But my biggest comment is that not only do cars - well, everybody needs to do this. It's the following distance that is your biggest point of safety because you're following distance gives you two things: number one, it gives you more room to react to anything happening in front of you and, number two, it gives you more room to see further in front of you to - so that you're not just reacting to the car immediately in front of you, but you are reacting to the vehicles that are even in front of those cars and�

CONAN: So especially in situations like fog and rain and bad weather of all kinds.

GENE: Right. Right. And then slowing down - I understand all of us truck drivers have to make a living. But it's no - there's no sense in either tailgating somebody or pushing your right of way and ending up in the wrong because you can't stop on time. Most people don't understand the word yield, so they race us - from the on ramps onto the highway.

CONAN: Right.

GENE: So - and, basically, I've gotten accustomed to the fact that I figure just about everybody is going to do that so I'm - I've already taken my foot off the accelerator before I approach that ramp. You know, I mean, you know, there are things you can do to be safe.

I did want to make a quick point - some of the stuff that that gentleman was saying about the new rules. Everybody is an individual. Some people are sloppy, some people have a lot more odor than others, you know? Sometimes with truck driving, even though you're getting your rest, you don't have time to stop for a shower or you don't have a shower available to you on your route. And, you know, I don't think using those things to judge whether or not you're fatigued is a fair thing.

CONAN: Well, all I can say to that is those of us in radio are really glad we don't broadcast in Aroma-rama.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GENE: Well, I'm not stinky. I'm lucky. I don't smell very bad, which is nice. But, you know, and I like my job. I really do like my job. But I am out here for 30 days at a time before I go home and that's, you know - and it is a long time and you live in your office.

CONAN: Yup. Gene, drive safely. Thanks very much.

GENE: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Happy Thanksgiving to you.

We're talking about big rigs and road safety. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's go next to Casey, Casey with us from Oklahoma City.

CASEY (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Casey.

CASEY: I just have a question for the truck drivers. I've noticed that they can use a type of communication with their headlights, maybe flashing to let people know that they can get in front of them or they're ready. And I'm just curious about the actual meaning of those lights and if drivers in America can use those symbols and understand a little bit better so that we can drive more safely.

CONAN: Bill, can you help us out here?

Mr. CASSIDY: I have heard that in many cases if a truck has passed you and is ahead of you, flashing your lights is a signal that it's okay to move back in. You've�

CONAN: You're far enough ahead, yeah.

Mr. CASSIDY: Yeah. Yeah, that you're recognizing they're doing this and all that. I'm not sure how scientific that is, how many truck drivers actually have that kind of code. That would be great to hear from some of our listeners if they could enlighten us on that.

CONAN: All right. Thanks. We'll see if we can find that out, Casey.

CASEY: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Ziggy, Ziggy with us from I-90 in New York. Ziggy, you there? Sounds like Ziggy might be involved in some tricky driving at the moment. Let's see if we can go instead - let's go to - this is Rob. Rob with us from Wheeling, West Virginia.

ROB (Caller): Good afternoon, Mr. Conan. How are you, sir?

CONAN: I'm well. And are you a truck driver?

ROB: Yes, sir. I'm an owner-operator, been driving for almost 25 years or better.

CONAN: And can you answer Casey's question about the flashing lights?

ROB: Yes, sir. That started way back in the '40s before CB was big. Truck would pass another one. They would dim the lights as a courtesy to let that driver know that he was clear to move back into the lane. So basically, safety communications before the CB came out.

CONAN: So CB radio - they're now in contact on CB channel 16?

ROB: Nineteen, sir.

CONAN: Nineteen, excuse me. All right. Did you have something else you wanted to say?

ROB: The main reason why I called was education of everybody, not just the truck drivers but everybody that drives. They have graduated licensing for the first-time drivers, the 16-year-olds and the teenagers. I believe they should do something like that for the adults as well on a continual basis.

Large car tractor-trailer drivers, we have to get special endorsements upon our driver's license which allow us to operate the various trucks and transport the various types of freight that we haul. I believe that there should be an endorsement on an adult driver's license that gives them the authorization and a privilege that says that they could come out onto the interstate to drive on the interstate, mixing with big trucks.

And I think that a lot of us across the country have forgotten, driving is not a right. It's not a right. It's a privilege issued by the state.

CONAN: Bob, thanks very much for the call. And are you driving now?

BOB: Yes, sir. I'm en route to Reno, Nevada, and I will be spending Thanksgiving on the road, sir.

CONAN: Well, have a good meal and drive safely.

BOB: Thank you, sir. Have a fantastic holiday to all your listeners.

CONAN: Okay, Rob. Thanks very much. This idea of the graduated license, I don't think Rob is going to be running for office anytime soon.

Mr. CASSIDY: Right. I don't think that most motorists would really want to have to go through that type of system, to have a special license to get on to the interstate. They might point out that, you know, the interstate is public highways. We all pay for them. The trucks use them, as well as cars. But he does have good point, I think, about education. And it does make you think, you know, when was the last time that you, for example, had a driving test?

CONAN: Long time ago.

Mr. CASSIDY: A long time ago for me, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CASSIDY: And I wonder about education and what can be done because I do recall back in the days when I had a driving test or a driving class, we did receive instruction about how to drive around trucks. But it was very, very basic and basically warned us not to run into them. So, what more can be done in that area, what should be done?

CONAN: Education might be the key thing to come out of this conversation. Bill Cassidy, thanks very much.

Mr. CASSIDY: Thank you.

CONAN: William Cassidy, managing editor at the Journal of Commerce, where he covers the trucking industry, domestic and service transport. He joined us here in Studio 3A. �Ask Amy� joins us when we come back. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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