July 1, 2021, | Ullin, IL. – It’s summer, which means increased road work in many areas of the country, and the heartland is no exception. Each year as road construction increases, unfortunately, so do traffic accidents. Recently The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released estimates of crash fatalities in 2020 involving motor vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, and people walking and biking. Records indicated that even though Americans drove less in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, NHTSA’s estimates showed that approximately 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes—the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007.”
In our area, with road construction taking place on the Illinois/Kentucky Bridge separating Metropolis and Paducah, we have seen a significant number of accidents in the last few weeks. In some instances, these accidents involved multiple vehicles, including semi-trucks which often increase the potential for fatalities due to the significant size and weight of these vehicles.
Shawnee Community College Truck Driving Coordinator Kelly Jennings knows all too well the dangers associated with over-the-road driving and says it’s one reason the college’s program emphasizes safety as a priority for their students. “I spent nearly 25 years with over 3 million miles on the road behind the wheel of a semi accident-free.” Jennings said. When people ask how I maintained a safe driving record, I tell them I followed the safety rules, eliminated distractions, and kept my eyes on the road. I witnessed lots of accidents during my career and know how important it is to keep our graduates and our communities safe. In our program, we emphasize to our drivers the importance of knowing your surroundings, eliminating distractions, and in general just maintaining your focus behind the wheel.”
Jennings said that as more and more truck drivers retire, the industry sees new drivers come in with much less experience. “There are lots of new drivers going into the workforce. That happens as our older drivers retire but, with proper training from certified schools, you can reduce risk to truck drivers and other motor vehicle operators along the road.”
Jennings said that there are currently restrictions being implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that will help ensure qualified drivers are behind the wheel of commercial vehicles. The guidelines, which go into effect in February of 2022, will require schools to register with the FMCSA and follow more stringent safety guidelines for new drivers entering the industry. Drivers will be required to register and will only be allowed to obtain training from FMCSA registered schools. “We welcome The FMCSA’s new guidelines. We have always valued safety, and these new guidelines will help set the baseline for new drivers receiving a CDL.,” said Jennings.
Shawnee Community College currently allows ten students per class, and Jennings says that with the excellent pay and benefits many truck driving companies are offering, he continues to fill his classes.” For information about the Shawnee College Truck Driving Program, call 618.634.3200 or visit the Truck Driving program webpage.