•                                                                                               The Media

HEADLINE: Roadcheck to Emphasize Level 1 Inspections, CVSA Says; Inspectors Also Will Check Safety Belts


HEADLINE: Trucker could face 24 years in jail; Judge to rule on guilty plea during August hearing




Transport Topics; week of May 28, 2007 , issue

HEADLINE: Roadcheck to Emphasize Level 1 Inspections, CVSA Says; Inspectors Also Will Check Safety Belts


Byline: Sarah Godfrey, Staff Reporter


The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance said its 2007 International Roadcheck program will focus on Level 1 comprehensive vehicle and driver inspections but also place additional emphasis on the use of safety belts.


“We’re seeing a trend in the positive direction on safety belts, but it’s still not anywhere near where it needs to be,” said Stephen Keppler, CVSA’s director of policy and programs. “It’s a no-brainer — wearing a belt will save your life. The data show it, and we’re trying to emphasize it.”


Keppler said about half of the commercial drivers killed in accidents were not wearing safety belts in 2004, the most recent year for which data are available.


CVSA said that during Roadcheck, scheduled for June 5-7, roughly 10,000 trained professionals will conduct inspections of commercial vehicles on major highways and other roads throughout North America .


The alliance said that during Roadcheck, there are almost three times as many inspectors and law enforcement officers on the roads.


“Starting at 12:01 a.m. on June 5, there will be a higher presence out there,” Keppler said.


This year’s event will concentrate on Level 1 North American Standard inspections, which are 37-step checks both of vehicles and drivers.


Besides the additional focus on seat belts, Keppler said inspectors will be paying additional attention to motor coach operations, following a number of recent high-profile crashes.


Keppler said commercial drivers face a high probability of being stopped during Roadcheck and urged them to respect officers conducting inspections.


“The officers are just doing their jobs. They’re trying to keep freight and drivers moving, but if they find problems, they will have to deal with them in an appropriate manner,” he said.


During last year’s Roadcheck, 8,522 inspectors conducted 60,357 inspections at 1,850 sites throughout North America . In the United States alone, 3,389 drivers and 13,095 vehicles were placed out of service, according to CVSA figures.


“We want to let people know we’re out there, and that trucks aren’t going unwatched,” said Keppler.

CVSA is an association of state, provincial and federal officials responsible for the administration and enforcement of motor carrier safety laws in North America .


The Roadcheck program, now in its 20th year, started as an outgrowth of increased enforcement activities following the passage of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Act of 1986.



Chronicle-Tribune (Marion, Indiana); Wednesday, May 30, 2007

HEADLINE: Trucker could face 24 years in jail; Judge to rule on guilty plea during August hearing


Byline: Barry William Walsh


PORTLAND - Before his hearing Tuesday, Robert F. Spencer sat behind the same table he had sat behind three times before in the Jay County Circuit Court Room.


As an officer unlocked the arm restraints from his wrists, Spencer spoke in hushed tones.


"Where's my lawyer at?" Spencer asked. "I need to talk to him before all this happens."


After meeting briefly with his attorney, Max Ludy Jr., Spencer followed Ludy back into the courtroom and sat a brown chair just in front of the audience gallery.


Less than 30 minutes later, Spencer agreed to a guilty plea agreement that, if accepted, could land him in prison for up to 24 years for causing the April 26, 2006, crash that killed four Taylor University students and one employee.


The new pleas - Spencer had pleaded not guilty to five Class C felony counts of reckless homicide and four Class C felony counts of criminal recklessness resulting in serious bodily injury in September - came Tuesday in front of Jay Circuit Court Judge Brian Hutchison.


Prosecutors said the 38-year-old Canton , Mich. , resident had broken federal driving guidelines on the day before and day of the crash. They also said he made no attempt to avoid the collision that resulted in the deaths of students Laurel Erb, Bradley Larson, Elizabeth Smith and Laura VanRyn and employee Monica Felver. The accident also injured student Whitney Cerak and employees Connie Magers, Michelle Miller and Vickie Rhodes.


After Grant County Prosecutor James Luttrull Jr. presented evidence that he believed showed Spencer to have acted recklessly, Hutchison questioned Spencer about the truth of the statements.


"Do you agree with what he said?" Hutchison asked. "That on the date of April 26, 2006, in Grant County you did recklessly kill Laurel Erb, Bradley Larson, Elizabeth Smith, Laura VanRyn and Monica Felver?"


"Yes, I did," Spencer responded.


After he questioned Spencer, Hutchison took the guilty plea and the plea agreement under advisement. If Hutchison accepts the terms of the plea agreement, Spencer would serve up to four years for each of the reckless homicide counts and a total of four years on the criminal recklessness charges.


None of the victims' family members were present at Tuesday's hearing, but Luttrull noted that some do plan to attend the sentencing hearing.


"I have been in contact with each of the families," Luttrull said. "None expressed any reservations about the plea agreement."


Before Hutchison set another hearing for 9 a.m. Aug. 14 in Jay Circuit Court during which Spencer could be sentenced, Luttrull said he supported the plea agreement.


"There's no reservations about the plea agreement," he said. "There is relief. The state will do everything possible to facilitate the plea agreement."


Before the end of the hearing a motion by Ludy to vacate the scheduled trial date of Aug. 13 was accepted by Hutchison. If Spencer were convicted in a jury trial, he would face 18 to 72 years in prison, which is one of the reasons Ludy said he was relieved an agreement was reached.


"I thought it was triable, but there was a lot at stake," Ludy said. "So getting it resolved before the trial is good."



                 Crash kills 8 on road where 20 have died since 2005

Associated Press Writer                                                 

BRISTOL, Ind. (AP) - A stretch of the Indiana Toll Road where at least 12 people had died since August 2005 claimed eight more lives Thursday when a semitrailer barreled through stopped traffic, crushing several vehicles in a chain-reaction crash.

State police said the driver of the semi never slowed until he struck the vehicles, which had stopped because of a separate crash near a construction site. Two of the cars were crushed beyond recognition - a van carrying six people, five of whom died, and a Jeep Cherokee in which two were killed. The driver of a pickup truck that was knocked off the road also died.

"At this point, we don't know the reason. He did not slow down," state police Sgt. Trent Smith said. "It's one of the worst accidents that we've had up here."

Police did not release names of the victims or the semi driver, but at least four were believed to be Amish residents from LaGrange County, one of the nation's largest Amish communities.

No charges had been filed Thursday. Investigators said they would send their report to the county prosecutor for review.

The crash brought to at least 20 the number of people killed in collisions involving semitrailers and multiple victims since August 2005 on a short stretch of the east-west tollway, which also is Interstates 80 and 90.

Those crashes, plus two involving semitrailers on Interstate 69 - one a year ago that killed four Taylor University students and a staff member and one April 19 that killed the daughter of state Sen. Timothy Skinner - prompted a call for action from state lawmakers Thursday.

The state Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, calling for a study committee on vehicle crashes involving commercial motor vehicles.

Wyss said he has been concerned for some time about the number of large trucks passing through Indiana. The death of Skinner's daughter, who died when her car was struck from behind by a semi, and Thursday's crash reinforced his concerns.

"Eight deaths, one crash. Whatever you do, don't call them accidents," he said. "They are crashes, and they are done by irresponsible, aggressive commercial vehicle drivers."

Kenny Cragen, president of the Indiana Motor Truck Association, said he supports the study.

"I think it needs to be done. We've got to do everything we can to prevent accidents like today from happening again," he said.

Matt Pierce, a spokesman for toll road manager ITR Concession Co., said the key to preventing such accidents is more police.

"That's exactly what's going to slow them down," he said. "It's the individuals driving the big rigs. If they are driving at a high rate of speed, it's hard for them to stop. They have a burden to keep at a safe distance."

Pierce said an Indiana Department of Transportation team would be looking at the road to determine if there is a reason so many fatal crashes have occurred. INDOT spokesman Andy Dietrick said the team would also review whether steps could have been taken to prevent the accident.

Smith said the accident about 6:45 a.m. Thursday occurred in the tollway's westbound lanes about 1˝ miles before the start of a construction site where highway workers are rebuilding a bridge. Traffic had come to a standstill in the right lane and was moving slowly into the left lane.

He said the warning signs were posted along the highway up to three miles from where the construction site began.

"There are thousands of people that travel these roads every day. All it takes is one person not paying attention for a split second to cause these accidents," Smith said.

Bristol Fire Chief William Dempster said four of the victims were Amish residents of nearby LaGrange County.

While Amish typically do not drive motor vehicles because they don't want to depend on technology, Amish workers often hire drivers to ferry them to work, said Joseph Yoder, director of the Menno-Hof, a nonprofit information center in nearby Shipshewana that teaches visitors about the Amish and Mennonite.

Many public telephones in Amish areas have lists of drivers who can be hired, Yoder said. Steven Nolt, a Goshen College history professor who has written several books about the Amish, said Amish frequently travel together in work crews and hire a driver.

About 14,000 Amish live in western LaGrange and eastern Elkhart counties, Nolt said.

Yoder said the deaths would hit the Amish hard because they are so community-oriented.

"But they will accept it as being God's will," he said. "You don't question God."

The accident scene about one mile east of Bristol is near a crash site that killed five people last year on the tollway.

Westbound lanes were closed about 40 miles west of the Ohio state line until 3:30 p.m.

               Toll Road crash victims identified

This accident occurred exactaly one year to the date of  The Taylor University Crash, which is the next story. This accident claimed the lives of 5 people.  ACTUAL FACTS:  5,000 plus people die every year to semi accidents, 114,000 plus people are serverly injured a year and fourteen people die a day from semi accidents.  When is the Government, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration going to make a change?  They keep demanding that there are no problems out there.  Tell this to the people of the eight lives that were destroyed on April 26, 2007 or the loved ones of the five people that were killed last year April 26, 2007.  You've already read my story.  I dare The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to step up to its neglected responsbility.   We must ban together and have our voices heard.  "My daughters life and the lives of many other shall not be in vain."


BRISTOL — Indiana State Police have released the names of six of the eight people killed in a seven-vehicle crash on the Indiana Toll Road this morning.

Troopers said five people were riding in a Ford F-250 extended cab pickup.

They included Merle D. Miller, 44, of Ligonier, Ind.; Samuel Yoder, 46, of Wolcottville, Ind.; and his son, Anthony Yoder, 17.
Troopers had not identified the other two passengers in that pickup as of 6:15 p.m. Thursday. Police did confirm they are Amish.

Other people confirmed dead in the accident included Mark S. Repp, of Sturgis, who was driving another pickup truck, a Ford F-150.

Douglas and Mary Helen George, of Springfield, N.H., were also killed. They were the driver and passenger in a Jeep Cherokee.

Wayne R. Lehman, of LaGrange, the driver of the Ford F-250 in which several of the victims were riding, was flown to Memorial Hospital in South Bend in critical condition, according to the news release.

Roger Lewis, 57, of Sturgis, who was driving a Ford Focus, was treated at Elkhart General Hospital and released.

Troopers said the accident happened about 6:40 a.m. when a semi hit the Ford F-250, starting a chain reaction accident.

The driver, identified as Leonardo J. Cooksey, 31, of Mount Prospect, Ill., was not injured.

Police said reports on the accident will be forwarded to the Elkhart County prosecutor’s office.

The drivers of two other semis caught in the accident also suffered no injures.

They are Roger A. Kluge, 39, of Sullivan, Mo., and Bill Tolson, 49, of Fremont, Ind.

              Taylor University recalls victims of deadly crash, ID mix-up

4/26/2007, 10:00 p.m. EDT
The Associated Press

UPLAND, Ind. (AP) — An emotional memorial service Thursday night marked the first anniversary of a crash that killed five people and put two Michigan families through weeks of turmoil in a heartbreaking mix-up of identities.

Four Taylor University students and a staff member died April 26, 2006, when their van collided with a semitrailer on Interstate 69 as they were en route back to campus from Fort Wayne.

But one of the students who was killed was at first misidentified by the county coroner as one of five others who were injured. The mix-up wasn't discovered until five weeks later, when the family of Laura VanRyn of Caledonia, Mich., realized that the young woman they thought was their daughter actually was Whitney Cerak, another Taylor student
Friends and family of all the victims spoke to about 1,500 people who attended the memorial service in Taylor's Rediger Chapel.

"Our family had the challenging but great opportunity to just drop everything and take care of someone who was hurt in an accident," said Lisa VanRyn, Laura's older sister. "We cared for her like she was part of our family."

She remained part of the family, as did the other crash victims who died and the ones who survived.

"The legacy of those we remember this evening have and will continue to present eternal life to others," said Taylor senior Brent Maher, who delivered a welcoming prayer to the assembly at the Christian liberal arts college. "We have been charged with upholding their legacies. ... Their stories are ours to tell."

Standing in front of five huge arrangements of flowers, the speakers, most of them classmates or recent graduates, talked about the impact the victims' lives had had on them. All of them spoke of the strength they have drawn over the past year through their faith in God.

"Sometimes it hurts so much I don't know what to do or what emotions to have," said Lisa VanRyn, a 2000 Taylor graduate. "But I have tremendous hope because God will make things right."

Senior Vanessa Fereshetian spoke in tribute of Monica Felver, a member of the university's dining services staff.

"Death is weak," Fereshetian said. "It doesn't have the power to destroy the life it claims."

The mix-up of identities prompted state lawmakers to propose changing the way coroners are certified. A compromise reached Thursday would require Indiana coroners to receive training and establish four methods, including DNA or fingerprints, to determine the identity of a dead person. None of the methods were used in the Taylor crash.

The memorial was one of two anniversary observances this week at school of about 1,850 students midway between Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. The fathers of Cerak and VanRyn both spoke during a campus chapel service Wednesday.

The others killed in the crash were students Bradley Larson of Elm Grove, Wis., Laurel Erb of St. Charles, Ill., and Elizabeth Smith of Mount Zion, Ill..

Trucker Robert F. Spencer, 38, of Canton Township, Mich., near Detroit, is scheduled to face trial in August on five counts of reckless homicide and four counts of criminal recklessness. Authorities say he had driven at least nine hours more than allowed under federal rules before he fell asleep behind the wheel.




                  Semi crashes into Lake Wales home




Last Edited: Friday, 06 Apr 2007 5:37 PM EDT

Created: Friday, 06 Apr 2007 1:10 PM EDT

LALES- A teenager and a toddler were inside a home Friday when a huge truck slammed into it.

Investigators saythe truck driver AKE Wran a red light and hit and SUV before continuing on into thehouse.

"We heard a semi truck honk, and the next think we heard was a collision of cars, so I went out to see what was happening, and then I see the semi cross people's yards, and there was a big cloud of smoke and it was inside the house," said witness Jason Brimlow.

Neither driver was seriously hurt.

Charges in the crash are pending.



Transport Topics online; Wednesday, April 25, 2007

HEADLINE: Groups Sue FMCSA Over Mexican-Trucks Plan

Winston-Salem ( North Carolina ) Journal; Thursday, April 26, 2007

COLUMNIST HEADLINE: Law change might have averted fiery death on road

Press release from US Senator Patty Murray; Thursday, April 19, 2007



Transport Topics online; Wednesday, April 25, 2007

HEADLINE: Groups Sue FMCSA Over Mexican-Trucks Plan


A coalition of groups led by Public Citizen the Teamsters Union said Tuesday they have filed suit against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to block the federal government’s plan to allow a pilot program of Mexican trucks into the United States .


The suit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in California , the groups said. Also joining Public Citizen — which had been a lead, and successful plaintiff in challenging FMCSA hours-of-service safety rules — were the Sierra Club, Environmental Law Foundation, a local truck drivers’ union branch and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.


FMCSA is an agency of the Department of Transportation, which announced the plan in late February to select Mexican trucking companies to perform long-haul operations across the U.S. border beyond the current commercial zone near the border.


DOT Secretary Mary Peters said at the time that FMCSA safety inspectors would travel to Mexico as part of the pilot program. The department said last month that the program would involve less than 1,000 trucks.


“The Bush administration is ignoring the American people in its zeal to open our borders to unsafe Mexican trucks,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “This reckless pilot program must be stopped and the driving public protected.”


Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen’s president, said the “so-called pilot program was rushed through in secrecy to serve as a showpiece to permit the Bush administration to proclaim victory and declare the entire southern border open to unfettered, long-haul truck commerce before the end of 2008. Congress and the courts should not allow it.”

Winston-Salem ( North Carolina ) Journal; Thursday, April 26, 2007


COLUMNIST HEADLINE: Law change might have averted fiery death on road

Byline: Scott Sexton, JOURNAL COLUMNIST


Jim Conner never had a chance. He was minding his own business, sitting behind the wheel of his 2004 Mercury sedan on U.S. 158 on April 17 when a tractor-trailer slammed into him from behind.


His car's gas tank ruptured and exploded. The fire burned so hot and so fast that it incinerated his car and the rig.


It was horrific and a terrible way for a 56-year-old father of two to die.


"I wish I could tell you that he died instantly," said Trooper Philip Dixson, a tall, no-nonsense veteran of the N.C. Highway Patrol. "But I can't."


Worse still is the possibility that it could have been prevented with just a little foresight on the part of state legislators and those who regulate commercial drivers.


The driver of the big rig, Carlos Edward Williams Jr., had twice before been convicted of driving while impaired, had beat two other DWI charges - one brought while he was operating a tractor-trailer in McDowell County in 2000 - and served time in prison in 2002 for possession of methamphetamine.


"I didn't know that.… That makes me sick," said Nancy Conner, Jim's widow.


It also begs the question: How on earth does a guy with two DWIs and a drug felony manage to hold a valid commercial driver's license?


Beating the system


Truth be told, word of Conner's death nearly was nearly lost in the news last week. The wreck - I refuse to call it an accident because that implies that nobody was at fault - got five paragraphs on Page B2.


It was no less tragic: An innocent man died while minding his own business.


According to Dixson's report, Williams didn't slow down until the very last instant. In broad daylight, he didn't see two cars stopped in front of him.


The posted speed limit along that stretch of U.S. 158 is 55 mph. Williams was estimated to have been traveling about 40 mph when his truck hit Conner's car. Skid marks indicate that the brakes were applied just 20 yards before impact.


As bad as the wreck scene was, Williams' record may be worse.


The convictions first: carrying a concealed weapon, possession of marijuana, Feb. 2, 1987; driving while impaired, July 23, 1992; DWI, Oct. 10, 1996; and possession of methamphetamine, March 5, 2001. Of those, Williams drew prison time (six to eight months) only for the meth conviction.


The ones that got away: DWI in Davie County, Jan. 6, 1994 (voluntary dismissal); possession of an open container of alcohol, Feb. 27, 1997 (prayer for judgment continued); DWI while driving a commercial vehicle, March 7, 2001 (found not guilty); and at least three speeding tickets between 2001 and 2007, all of which were reduced.


Is that the record of a trucker that you would want to see bearing down on you on the highway?


Charges pending


Williams has yet to be charged in connection with Conner's death. Williams agreed to a blood test. He's not talking, though, as he is lawyered up.


If the test shows alcohol or drugs, a murder charge will be considered.


"The case is under investigation," said Jim O'Neill, the assistant district attorney who will make that decision. "Let's see where it goes."


Now the big question: Why was Williams carrying a valid commercial driver's license? Because state law says that it is OK.


Before September 2005, DWIs that happened while driving a personal car couldn't be held against somebody applying for a commercial driver's license. Even now, a person has to be convicted of two DWIs within three years (or three within 10) to lose a commercial driver's license for four years. Oh, and dope charges-if they don't involve moving violations -don't count, either.


"If look at dates of (Williams') DWIs, they don't quite fall into that," said Marge Howell, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Transportation. "If he had been convicted in 2000, it would have affected the situation. We can't revoke without a conviction."


Explain that to Nancy Conner.


Press release from US Senator Patty Murray; Thursday, April 19, 2007



DATELINE: WASHINGTON -- Today, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) chaired a hearing of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee to examine the alarming trend of increased highway fatalities across the country. Since 2003, the number of annual fatalities has risen by over 3,000 to an estimated 43,400 deaths a year.


Additionally, for the first time in several years, the statistical likelihood that a citizen will be killed on our nation's highways has increased. Senator Murray challenged the assembled witnesses to come up with new ways to tackle the problem.


"If we are going to get back on track to reducing highway fatalities, it is clear that the old solutions are not going to be enough," said Senator Murray. "We need some new and innovative solutions. And the Federal government needs to be a partner in these solutions."


Today's hearing examined many of the causes for the increase in fatalities. While Senator Murray discussed problems commonly attributed to highway deaths including drunk driving, seat belt enforcement, and adherence to speed limits, she also spent substantial time focusing on ineffective compliance reviews for rogue trucking companies.


"We need to take a more aggressive posture in getting people to buckle up their seats belts and drink and drive responsibly, but we also need a truck safety agency that will find the problems with rogue trucking companies before fatalities occur, not after," Murray said.


Senator Murray illustrated the need for increased compliance reviews for trucking companies using the example of a March 19th accident that The Washington Post reported on involving a trucker who had racked up traffic citations in seven states. Read that story.


Read Senator Murray's opening statement here:


Today we will take testimony on the tragic trend of rising fatalities on our Nation's highways. Right now, an average of 119 people dies every day in motor vehicle crashes. That means that every 12 minutes, a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, or a child is stolen from the American family. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 3 and 33. They remain one of the top five leading causes of death for middle-aged Americans.


During our first Subcommittee hearing back in February, I reminded Transportation Secretary Mary Peters that, when she served as Federal Highway Administrator in 2003, she noted that there were 41,000 highway fatalities that year. She concluded that our country was facing "a National safety crisis."


Unfortunately since 2003 the number of annual fatalities has now risen to 43,400. The crisis has not abated. It has worsened. And even more worrisome than the raw number of people being killed on our highways is the fact that, for the first time in several years, the fatality rate - the statistical likelihood that a citizen will be killed on our highways - has actually increased. After many years of slow but steady progress, the numbers are now going in the wrong direction.


If we are going to get back on track to reducing highway fatalities, it is clear that the old solutions are not going to be enough. Only half of the states have enacted primary seat belt laws. And as we learned in the recent incident involving our former colleague, Governor Corzine, it is not enough just to enact primary seat belt laws. These laws, like the posted speed limits, need to be respected and enforced.


But there are many other factors that add to our rising fatality rate. Not enough states are taking repeat drunk drivers off the road, permanently. And not enough states are requiring safe practices by our motorcyclists. We need some new and innovative solutions. And the Federal government needs to be a partner in these solutions.


I am very disappointed to see that, rather than exhibiting leadership and attacking the problem, the Bush Administration appears to be retreating. A few years ago, the Bush Administration itself established the admirable goal of reducing the highway fatality rate to 1 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled by 2008. But rather than put forward bold new initiatives to reach that goal, the Bush Administration has decided instead to weaken the goal and delay it until 2011.


Rather than admitting defeat, the Administration should be redoubling its efforts and putting forward proposals that will truly alter the behavior of drivers, pedestrians, and even Federal enforcers and regulators.


Testifying before us this morning are the Administration's two principal point people on highway safety. Nicole Nason is the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. John Hill serves as our chief truck safety official - the Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. I am also pleased that we are joined by Mark Rosenker Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. This is his first appearance before this Subcommittee.


The NTSB is probably best known for its work investigating aviation crashes, but its work in recommending safety improvements on our highways actually impacts a great many more travelers. The NTSB has no regulatory or enforcement functions. But they do carry extraordinarily important responsibilities in investigating accidents and making recommendations for safety improvements to federal and state agencies, and transportation operators to ensure a safer transportation network.


When the NTSB makes a recommendation to a Federal agency, we expect that Federal agency to take notice. And when the NTSB puts that recommendation on its list of most wanted safety recommendations, we expect that Federal agency to act promptly. Finally, when the NTSB determines that an agency's response to one of their "most wanted" safety recommendations is unacceptable, this Subcommittee wants answers. We want to know why the agency is turning a blind eye to the NTSB.


Two of the NTSB's "most wanted" safety recommendations have been directed at Mr. Hill's truck safety agency. And the NTSB has determined that Mr. Hill's response to both has been unacceptable. This morning, I want to find out why.


Recently, here in the Washington D.C. area, we learned the tragic results of weak and ineffective truck safety enforcement. The Washington Post recently revealed the case of a trucker who had racked up traffic citations in seven states. In one of those states, the license of the truck driver had been suspended seven times in eleven years. In fact, he was driving on a suspended license at the time that he crashed into a passenger vehicle on the Capitol Beltway, killing a 33-year-old father of two.


The truck driver was cited for reckless driving and he may face more serious charges as a result of that accident. That truck driver was in the employ of a trucking company called BK Trucking. Prior to the accident, BK Trucking firm was already on the watch list for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration because of an unusually high number of accidents and deficient inspections.


A little more than three weeks before the beltway accident, the FMCSA did a full scale compliance review on BK trucking. They found a few problems, mostly with log books but otherwise found no violations that the agency described as "critical" or "acute."


That was before the fatal accident. Three days after this awful tragedy, the FMCSA paid another call on BK trucking and discovered the following violations:


* Improper lease agreements;

* Lack of compliance with drug and alcohol testing procedures;

* Using drivers with suspended commercial drivers licenses;

* Failure to maintain records of State inspections;

* Maintaining false log books;

* Failure to turn in log books; and

* Failure to prepare driver inspection reports.


So just one month after the FMCSA conducted a compliance review and found only minimal problems, the agency did another compliance review and found multiple violations and wrote up fines totaling $77,000.


Now I don't doubt that the second compliance review conducted after the fatality was thorough. But I have serious doubts about the thoroughness of the compliance review that took place less than a month before the fatality. Are we really supposed to believe that the conditions at this trucking firm deteriorated so rapidly in 30 days? How is it that the first compliance review resulted in no violations and the second one, after the fatality revealed an endless list of problems, violations and fines?


I suspect the answer to those questions also explains why the National Transportation Safety Board has determined that the FMCSA's compliance review process is - in their words - "ineffective." I also suspect it explains why the NTSB has determined that the FMCSA responses to its recommendations in this area have been "unacceptable."


Let me be clear. Our nation's economy depends on a safe, efficient and well-capitalized trucking industry. In my home state of Washington our farmers depend on these trucks to get their agricultural products in Eastern Washington across the Cascade Mountains to the ports of Seattle and Tacoma in a safe and timely manner. And American consumers have come to expect a great variety of options as they peruse the shelves at retail outlets and supermarkets. Those goods don't get to those shelves by magic, they get there by truck.


But just as we need to take a more aggressive posture in getting people to buckle up their seats belts and drink and drive responsibly, we also need a truck safety agency that will find the problems with rogue trucking companies before fatalities occur, not after.





Semi Driver Flips Propane Tank, Flees Scene While Intoxicated



April 4th, 2007@4:58pm

Whit Johnson Reporting

The driver of a semi flipped his load of propane gas last night near mile marker 172 in Summit County on Interstate 80, and that's only the beginning of the story for the driver of the big rig. He fled the scene, and troopers say he was driving drunk.


Troopers say it's amazing that there was no leak of any kind. The propane trailer pup flipped onto the median then knocked dirt and debris into the roadway of oncoming traffic. Thirty-six-year-old Jason Darrow was seven times over the legal alcohol limit for drivers of commercial vehicles.

UHP says Darrow was driving in the westbound lanes above the speed limit and passing traffic when his trailer pup lost control and flipped off the back. Darrow continued driving and parked his truck at a nearby rest stop. Troopers eventually found him walking along the on-ramp.

Sgt. Harley Watkins of the Utah Highway Patrol said, "You have hazardous materials, you have gas, propane, things like that--all have the potential of creating a significant impact on the environment as well as on human life out here. These guys are held to a higher standard, and they need to abide by that."

Darrow failed both a breath and a blood alcohol test. He will likely face at least three charges, and he does have a criminal history. His employer, Turner Gas Company, did not return our calls.


                        School Bus Struck By Semi-Truck

POSTED: 4:11 pm PDT April 11, 2007       

UPDATED: 4:49 pm PDT April 11, 2007

A school bus has struck by a semi-truck that jack-knifed in the South Hill area of Puyallup, KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reported. Five students from Naches Trail Elementary school have suffered very minor injuries, officials tell KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Kevin McCarty. They are being taken to a hospital.

There were about 45 students on the bus at the time of the collision.

The collision happened at 160th and 79th Avenue East.