AUGUSTA — Tuesday morning will be the last meeting Steve Izer attends as a founding member of a trucking safety review board he and his wife helped bring about after the 1993 crash that killed their 17-year-old son.
“I think it’s in good hands. All the people from trucking, there hasn’t been any partiality at all,” Izer said of his time spent as the only civilian member of the Maine Motor Carrier Review Board. “If it’s a bad trucking company, then they want to get it better too.”
The board falls under the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles and regularly reviews the records of motor carriers operating in Maine with the most significant histories of truck-related safety violations. The board can recommend to the Maine Secretary of State that a motor carrier’s right to operate in Maine be suspended if necessary.
Izer has served on the board since its inception in 1995. He represents the only sitting member who is in no way related to the trucking industry. In addition to Izer, the seven-member board includes five members representing different trucking companies and one member representing the insurance industry.
“At the first board meeting, you could cut the tension in the room with a knife,” Izer said of how members spent the first year developing guidelines by which trucking companies would be reviewed. “But since then we’ve made a great deal of progress in transportation safety.”
Izer and his wife, Daphne, founded Parents Against Tired Truckers after their 17-year-old son, Jeff, was killed along with three friends in a crash on the Maine turnpike in 1993. The Lisbon couple has fought for legislation tightening trucking regulations after the parked car their son and four friends were sitting in awaiting roadside assistance in the breakdown lane was run over by a tractor-trailer whose driver fell asleep at the wheel. Only one victim survived the crash, and the driver eventually pleaded guilty to log book violations.
Izer said that one of the most eye-opening aspects for everyone involved in the process was the first couple times that reports were compiled citing the total violations for each trucking company. He pointed out how trucking companies often have a lot of violations here and there, but those take on a much different look when all put together.
He said there is a point system assessed to various violations. Points are tallied on a quarterly basis, and members of the review board are assigned the top 20 companies with the highest number of infractions to review and possibly call before them.
“The ones that come in don’t always come back, which is a good thing,” Izer said. “It’s an awareness that we’re there and if they’re getting too many violations, then they’re going to have to come before us.”
Izer said that Maine is the only state to have such a review board. In the beginning, he said that members reviewed between 20 and 25 trucking companies each year with multiple infractions. Today, that number is closer to 10 trucking companies being brought before the review board each year.
And while that’s a number Izer is much happier with, he said that people still need to remain vigilant to make sure no parents ever have to suffer the same pain and anguish as he and his wife.
“It’s an ongoing thing. You have to keep going,” Izer said of passing on the torch and making way for another person to join the board who, like himself, has no financial ties to the trucking industry. “There’s always new people who are going to show up on the radar — and they know somebody is watching.”