Interstate 5 was closed in the southbound lanes on Thursday evening after a semi-truck crossed over the center barrier of the highway and turned over.
According to police, the driver of the truck had apparently fallen asleep at the wheel before his vehicle veered into the center barrier. 44-year-old Tanu V. Teloma was driving a 2016 International semi-truck with a 1999 Great Dane box trailer. The semi-truck was hauling a forklift with a sulfuric acid battery; the battery ruptures during the crash, causing the sulfuric acid to spill onto the roadway.
The driver was airlifted to the hospital with non-life-threatening but serious injuries after the crash, including a broken arm, broken fingers, and lacerations to the face.
The Washington State Department of Transportation worked with the Department of Ecology and state troopers to close the roadway, clean up the spilled sulfuric acid, and remove debris from the scene. The northbound lanes of Interstate 5 remained open.
A pickup truck was damaged by debris at the scene of the accident. The other driver was able to drive it away from the scene, and was not reported to be injured.
Drowsy driving is a problem in the trucking industry
Anyone who is familiar with the trucking industry understands that drivers falling asleep at the wheel is a problem that requires a nation-wide fix. Truck drivers who get paid by the mile are incentivized to spend as much of their day as possible on the road, even if it means skipping rest breaks. Truckers will often record fake data in their log books in order to spend more time behind the wheel. And even when truck drivers follow the law, they aren’t always required to log their time driving to pick up a load or driving home from a job.
All that pressure to work longer so that they can drive longer can push truck drivers to do dangerous things on the road. One study found that 30 percent of truckers used amphetamines to stay awake longer on the job, and that drug abuse correlated to increased income because hopped-up truckers could drive for longer without stopping.
In Washington D.C., lobbyists are doing everything they can to reduce federal oversight of the trucking industry. Trucking industry lobbyists are pushing for relaxing rules on how much rest time drivers should be required to take between shifts; they are also attempting to increase the hours that truck drivers are allowed to work per week.