Michigan man's mission: put 'rag bag truckers,' firms out of business

By Jerry Breeden
The Trucker Staff

LINDEN, Mich.-  Ridding the road of "rag bag truckers" has become Robert Durk's mission in life, and with good
reason. "My 15-year-old-daughter, Janelle, was killed by, not one but two, tractor-trailers," Durk told
The Trucker.
   
While sleep deprivation played a key role in the accident, Durk said both truck drivers were also believed to have
been "in violation of safety codes.  One was on parole from prison for killing a man in 2001 in another accident.  In
that accident and the one in which my daughter was killed he was found to have had illegal drugs in his system.
   "The story is horrific," said Durk, a resident of Linden, Mich.  "The accident that took my daughter's life occurred
last July.  Since then, my wife and I have been lobbying for a safer trucking industry.  We feel that Janelle's story will
be beneficial to all who travel the highways-truck drivers and other motorists alike."
   Janelle's life story is presented in words and pictures on the Web site established in her honor by her parents at
www.justiceforjanelle.com.  It's also available on a featured link at www.ragbagtruckers.com.
   
Robert Durk went on to tell The Trucker, "We understand that most truck drivers are trying to make a living and
support their families.  In no way do we blame all truckers or the industry.  We simply would like to get rag back
truckers (those deemed criminal, dangerous or stupid) and their companies off the road.
   "As you know, the industry was deregulated in the 1980's and with deregulation came rag bag drivers and the rag
bag companies that support them."
   "Let's be honest," Durk continued.  "They are a threat to the reputation and safety of other truckers.  My wife and
I speak to truck drivers all the time and we find most are proud to be truck drivers, which they should be.  Most of
them support us and agree that rag bag truckers make all truckers look bad."
   Durk said he and his wife "are very new at this.  We got thrown into it rather quickly.  We are learning very fast,
though.  In fact, we have been invited to attend the Sorrow to Strength Workshop in Washington D.C.  I will be
addressing Congress and consoling others who have lost loved ones, due to rag bag truckers."
   Janelle A. Durk was killed July 5, 2006 on Interstate 70, according to reports by the Illinois State Police District 12
Headquarters at Effingham, Ill.
   Also killed was Dale Headley, 56, of Salem, Ill.  The accident occurred at 11:28 p.m. Wednesday, July 5, 2006, at
mile marker 141 in the eastbound lanes of the interstate.
   According to the accident report, Robert D. Whitney, 47, of Albany, Ind., fell asleep at the wheel of a 2004
Peterbuilt.  The rig hit a guard rail and came to a stop in the middle of the eastbound lanes.
   This caused a 1996 Kenworth driven by Headley to strike the rear of a 1994 Buick Skylark driven by Robert Durk.
The Skylark left the roadway to the right and entered the ditch.  Janelle was a passenger in the car being driven by
her dad.
   After hitting the Durk vehicle, Headley's truck swerved left and hit the rear of a vehicle driven by Larry D. Johns,
57, of Greenup, Ill.  The impact pushed Johns' vehicle into the rear of a vehicle driven by Darrell Dunlap, 61 of
Litchfield, Ohio.
   Headley's truck then swerved right and hit a big rig driven by Thomas E Ross, 41, of Bella Vista, Ark.  Robert
Durk and Johns were also injured.  Whitney was issued multiple citations.
   According to the Web site maintained by Durk, he believes truckers should be paid by the hours "for every hour
that they work" and that they,  "as all other Americans, should be afforded protection under the Fair Labor
Standards Act."
   Durk contends that "pay by the mile or by the load promotes fatigue."  He also said that "many drivers carry two or
more logbooks and in many cases are encouraged to do so by their employers.  By carrying more than one logbook
trucks drivers can more readily falsify information regarding their Hours of Service versus down time.
   "Studies performed by the trucking industry," Durk stated, "have shown that drivers spend, on average, between
33 and 44 hours each week waiting to load or unload.  In order to make a living, many drivers fail to log this time as
required, and still drive an additional 70 hours, which leads to severe sleep deprivation.  Loading, unloading and
waiting to load or unload are major contributing factors to fatigue.  The wait time and environment in which the truck
driver must wait...needs to be changed.
   "The motor carrier industry and the federal government need to stop using mileage as an indicator for evaluating
trucking industry safety.  The safety record of the trucking industry cannot be justified by the fact that the trucking
industry is driving more miles.
   "More deaths," Durk said, "are not better, regardless of overall mileage.  This philosophy is flawed and must be
changed.

 

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