Sugar cane workers call for safety during harvest season

Sugar cane workers call for safety during harvest season

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Fall means pumpkins, bonfires, and sugar cane harvest season. On Patrick Frischhertz's farm, he combines cutting the fields and loading the cane – first into tractor trailers, then to 18-wheelers.

"Grinding season is the best part of the year." says Frischhertz. "We get to see what type of crop we have." He married into a cane family that has been farming the land just a stone's throw from Plaquemine High School for seven generations.

Grinding season makes for long hours in the field, but it also means long hours on the road. Those big rigs that haul sugar cane to the mills have already hit the road, and after several fatal accidents involving these trucks last year, cane families everywhere are asking drivers to be careful.

"We wish cane would magically appear at the mill," says Charlie Schudmak, C.O.O. of Cora-Texas Sugar Mill in White Castle, "but unfortunately having trucks on the road is necessary to get the cane from the field to the mill." This time of the year, Schudmak has 150 trucks hauling cane form as far away as Bunkie, LA. In the next three months his trucks will travel more than 3.5 million miles, the same as seven round-trip flights to the moon.

Crashes are always on his mind. Schudmak says that people should "Slow down. Look out for slow moving vehicles or mud on the road from harvesting."

As grinding season ramps up, motorists will begin to notice more and more signs along the highways and on the backs of cane trailers. "Cane Families Care About Your Family" is an awareness campaign sponsored by the American Sugar Cane League. The organization hopes these bright yellow or neon green reminders will keep safety in the forefront of traveler's minds.

For Frischhertz, the campaign is about common sense. "If you leave a little bit early, you're not pressed. You're not rushing. You're not following right behind the cane truck." It's a campaign farmers all over the state are behind. After all, their families ride the same roads as those big trucks.

Copyright WAFB 2014. All Rights Reserved