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Truck drivers respond to criticism

Published: Jun. 2, 2015 at 4:07 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 2, 2015 at 4:40 PM EDT
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CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - A community has been rocked with tragedy after 10 people have died just miles apart on the same highway, and in both cases, authorities say truck drivers are to blame.

"The truck drivers here in Savannah, we feel the tragedy and we feel the remorse," said Jerome Irvin, truck driver.

But truck drivers have also heard the criticisms, and they say the blame should be placed on a much larger group

"They are under pressure from all sides, the DOT, the trucking companies, the Ports Authority all play a role in this," says Irvin.

The general message from them is, if they were paid better and classified as independent contractors, the pressures to make deadlines, drive longer hours to deliver more goods, all of that would go away.

"I really do not think it is a matter of speed, but I think it is a matter of if the companies were paying adequately, then these drivers could run a little slower and actually get some rest to handle what they need to handle," said Carol Cauley, driver. "By the time it is over with, these drivers make less than minimum wage an hour, so their thing is they have to get back to get another load so they can recoup fuel."

They do understand they have a huge responsibility, but also say the image people have of them is unfair, especially after the two horrible crashes on I-16.

"No matter what incident we are in, it is our fault," says Cauley. "I do not feel one driver is going to represent all drivers."

Georgia Lawmakers have already said they are working on legislation that will restrict truck drivers more, lower their speed, and reduce the hours allowed on the road.

"They are wanting to put stipulations on us as the drivers, but really they need to be harder on these companies," said John Jackson, truck driver. "These companies are greedy, these companies have enough money they could pay us a decent wage."

Right now, the Department of Transportation rules of the road are drivers can be "on duty" for 14 hours, but only drive for 11 of those. Within the first 8 hours of driving, they are supposed to take a 30 minute break. And after your "on duty" shift, you must take a 10 hour break.

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