Five Nursing Students Killed, Three Others Injured After 18-Wheeler Fails To Reportedly Slow Down

Courtesy: WJCL-TV

Courtesy: WJCL-TV

According to the Georgia State Patrol, five people were killed and three others injured last week after a semi caused a chain-reaction crash along I-16 near Savannah. Authorities stated that the deadly accident occurred after an 18-wheeler failed to slow down and smashed into stop-and-go traffic.

The five people killed were nursing students at Georgia Southern University—which is located about 30 miles from the crash site. Troopers said that the semi plowed into an SUV, then rolled over a small passenger car that burst into flames. The big truck came to a halt after slamming into the back of a tanker.

The crash happened reportedly around 6 a.m. when traffic was already heavy due to an unrelated accident about a mile ahead that forced drivers to already slow down, Sgt 1st Class Chris Nease stated.

In a report by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the young women had big dreams of becoming nurses, and they were getting real-life experience at a Savannah hospital. During the morning of the accident, the group was on the road, heading for their final clinical of the school year at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital. Unfortunately, they never made it to their destination.

John Wayne Johnson has been identified as the truck driver involved in the 7-vehicle collision. Johnson is reportedly from Shreveport, Louisiana. WTOC and the Atlanta Journal Constitution have reported that federal investigators had flagged Total Transportation of Mississippi as a “carrier at risk,” and that the driver safety record for the company was worse than 90 percent.  KSLA-TV spoke briefly with the company’s CEO on the phone, John Stomps, who said “We are cooperating with the ongoing investigation. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and the Georgia Southern community.”

On Friday, an attorney for the mother of one of the nursing students killed in the crash stated that he was evaluating and preserving crucial evidence as he and his legal team decide whether to file a wrongful death suit.

According to Attorney Joseph A. Fried, Total Transportation of Mississippi, has a “history of unsafe driving.” He has actually sued the trucking company in the past.

Here at EJ Leizerman & Associates we believe that if it proves true that the company has failed to make safety a priority time and time again, they should be held responsible for their negligent behavior. Failing to abide by FMCSA guidelines demonstrates that it was only a matter of time before a tragedy as the one discussed above occurred.

If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call the truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman & Associates today to learn how we possibly can help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

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Ryder Logisitics Sued After 18-Wheeler Crash Claims 5 Lives, Injures 12 Others

Courtesy: KDFW-TV

Courtesy: KDFW-TV

The fiancé of a man killed in a fiery crash involving an 18-wheeler is suing the commercial trucking company and driver of the truck.

The lawsuit, filed several days ago, names Ryder Integrated Logistics and driver Dustin Pool as the plaintiffs. Elyssa “Ely” Alba recently filed the lawsuit inside a Texas courthouse.

According to The Star-Telegram, earlier this month, Alba and her fiancé were headed home from an engagement party when an 18-wheeler hit her and others standing in the road trying to help the victim of an earlier crash.

Alba was one of the survivors of that deadly crash in Fort Worth, Texas. NBC-5 has reported that she is expected to remain hospitalized for at least another month.

However, she has a long road to recovery. One of her legs has had to be amputated, and she has reportedly suffered fractures from her jaw to her hip. The lawsuit claims she will require long-term care and rehabilitation.

Her son, who was with her at the time of the crash, has since been discharged but remains under the care of a physician.

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FMCSA Orders Shutdown of South Carolina Trucking Company

DOTFMCSA authorities have ordered the shutdown of yet another trucking company for putting the public’s safety at risk, they claim. The agency made the announcement Thursday.

According to transportation officials, Mortise Trucking Company in Darlington, South Carolina is an authorized for-hire motor carrier hauling steel, wood and recycle plastic. The trucking company has been in operation reportedly since 2005. From serious maintenance deficiencies to failure to conduct alcohol testing of drivers, details of the report are rather damning.

“Any vehicle, especially a large commercial combination vehicle such as a truck and trailer, that is not maintained or repaired and allowed to become a serious public hazard, is absolutely unacceptable,” said FMCSA Chief Counsel Scott Darling.  “FMCSA’s safety regulations exist to protect everyone.  Compliance is not optional.  If a motor carrier does not adhere to the safety regulations, we will see that it does not operate.”

In late-March of this year, FMCSA safety investigators launched an investigation of Mortise Trucking, owned by Carnell Pompey, and found that the company was in serious violations of federal regulations. Some of the things that were discovered included:

  • FAILING TO SYSTEMATICALLY INSPECT, REPAIR AND MAINTAIN ITS COMMERCIAL VEHICLES  On six separate occasions in the past 12 months, a tractor-trailer operated by Mortise Trucking was placed out-of-service following roadside safety inspections for mechanical defects including inadequate brakes, brake system pressure loss, oil-contaminated brake and steering components, and worn tires.
  • FAILING TO CONDUCT REQUIRED CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE AND ALCOHOL USE TESTING REGULATIONS.
  • FAILING TO COMPLY WITH DRIVER QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENTS AND DRIVERS’ HOURS-OF-SERVICE REGULATIONS DESIGNED TO PREVENT FATIGUE.

“You (Carnell Pompey) have been unable or unwilling to produce the records indicating that all out-of-service maintenance violations and deficiencies were corrected before the CMV was operated again,” the order reads.

As a result, the FMCSA imminent hazard order directs Mortise Trucking to stop all commercial motor vehicle operations immediately, including all interstate and intrastate transportation, from all dispatching locations or terminals.

FMCSA also simultaneously revoked the carrier’s federal operating authority and suspended its USDOT number.  Violating an imminent hazard out-of-service order and operating without operating authority and a USDOT number may result in civil penalties up to $60,000 as well as a criminal penalty, including a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment not to exceed one year.

If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call the truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman & Associates today to learn how we possibly can help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

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FMCSA Publicly Calls Out Big Rig Driver For Drugged Driving

Courtesy WJCL News

Corporal William Solomon, who is still in a coma           Courtesy WJCL News

There is a growing body of scientific evidence which demonstrates drugged driving to be a leading cause of traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities. It’s no secret that the effects of prescription or illegal drugs on the body can impact motor skills, balance and coordination, perception, attention, reaction time, and judgment. Even small amounts of some drugs can have a measurable effect on driving ability.

One NHTSA study found that in 2009, 18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one illicit, prescription, or over-the-counter drug. In a national survey, drugs were present more than 7 times as frequently as alcohol among weekend nighttime drivers in the U.S., with 16% testing positive for drugs, compared to 2% testing at or above the legal limit for alcohol.

Commercial truck drivers are certainly not immune to the statistics. In fact, Georgia-licensed truck driver Robert Lee Turner has come under fire by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently (FMCSA) for drugged driving.

The agency has ordered Turner not to operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.  He was served the federal order on March 25, 2015.

“Commercial drivers should have no doubt that we will vigorously enforce all federal safety regulations to the fullest extent possible by law,” said FMCSA Chief Counsel Scott Darling.  “FMCSA is committed to raising the bar for commercial vehicle safety, and we will remain vigilant in removing unsafe truck and bus drivers from our roadways.”

According to WTOC-TV, Corporal William Solomon, a Georgia Ports Authority police officer, was severely injured while coordinating routine traffic operations on a Garden City Terminal.

The Georgia Highway Patrol stated Solomon was hit by a tractor trailer and the driver of the truck, 63-year-old Turner, was arrested and charged with DUI. He was also charged with operating a vehicle without a tag. Turner was eventually arrested and transported to the Chatham County Jail and held on a $4,600 bond.

FMCSA stated that in a post-accident controlled substances test, Turner tested positive for cocaine.

Bottom line, nothing good ever comes from abusing legal or illegal drugs—especially behind the wheel. Turner and other drivers like him have proven that time and time again. Drugged driving can quickly change the user’s life and victim’s life forever—and never in a good way.

The truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman & Associates applaud the FMCSA’s move to shut Turner down and prevent him from further endangering other lives due to his poor choices in life. The officer he reportedly injured will never be the same—and it’s unfortunate because this all could have been prevented by Turner simply driving “clean.”

If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call us today to learn how we possibly can help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

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FMCSA Begins Annual Motor Carriers’ Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey

urine specimen jarAlcohol and drugs make for a deadly combination—especially when behind the wheel. Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes.

In 2009, 18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one drug. This included illegal, prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs. That same year close to 4,000 fatally injured drivers tested positive for drug involvement.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is doing its part to keep those numbers low—particularly when it involves commercial vehicles. In an effort to do this, the FMCSA recently began notifying selected truck and bus companies, requesting that they submit their annual DOT drug and alcohol testing program results to the agency.

This annual survey measures the percentage of drivers with commercial driver’s licenses who test positive for controlled substances or drugs and/or alcohol, as a result of random and nonrandom testing.

Motor carriers that employ CDL drivers are required to implement drug and alcohol testing programs, pursuant to Part 382 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). Currently, the FMCSA requires these carriers to randomly test 10 percent of their CDL drivers for alcohol and 50 percent of their CDL drivers for drugs each year.

Since the early 1990s, the FMCSA and its predecessor agency has defined drug and alcohol testing rules and regulations for employees who drive commercial trucks and buses that require a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Results for FMCSA’s 2012 Drug and Alcohol Testing Survey of approximately 2,000 carriers revealed the following information:

  • Positive test rates following an initial positive result increased by 4.1 percent from 2011 to 2012.
  • Reasonable suspicion positive test rates continued to rise sharply from 5.6 percent in 2010, to 15.7 percent in 2011 and 37.2 percent in 2012, marking a five-fold increase over the 3-year period.
  • The rate of total positive drug test results reported to DOT from independent Health and Human Services-certified laboratories increased from 95,427 positives in 2011 to 97,332 positives in 2012.  FMCSA-regulated industries comprise approximately 80 percent of the reported tests.
  • Serious controlled substance and alcohol testing violations were identified in 24 percent of recent compliance investigations.
  • A two-week 2014 Strike Force focusing on the identification of drivers who tested positive resulted in 205 driver enforcement cases, and 138 enforcement cases against carriers for violations relating to drivers with positive test results operating a commercial motor vehicle.  These include drivers operating passenger carrying vehicles and transporting hazardous materials.

The selected motor carriers for this latest survey must submit their calendar year 2014 results by May 15, 2015.

The truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman & Associates applaud the FMCSA’s efforts to continue keeping America’s roadways safe. These surveys help the agency do just that. If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call us today to learn how we possibly can help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

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Trucker Found Guilty Of Fatigued Driving, Faces Up To Three Years In Prison

Courtesy: NBC Chicago

Courtesy: NBC Chicago

When truckers do not get enough sleep, the results can be deadly. In fact, fatigued driving is considered one of the top ten causes of truck accidents in the United States with 65 percent of them occurring on long-haul trips.

Believe it or not, sleep loss impacts performance similar to alcohol. Your ability to perform becomes impaired if your sleep is limited to five hours for more than two nights. After 24 hours awake, the effect is the equivalent to a BAC 0.10 percent.

For one longtime trucker, he’s learning the hard way just how devastating a lack of sleep can be. Recently, an Illinois judge found 47-year-old Renato Velasquez guilty of fatigued driving and for violating safety laws in the January 2014 crash that claimed the life of a toll worker and left a state trooper badly injured.

Prosecutors alleged that Velasquez had been working for 36 hours on only 3-1/2 hours of sleep prior to the crash, a run that took him to Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa before heading back to Chicago. The 2014 collision ruptured the officer car’s gas tank, sparking flames and explosions which badly injured Trooper Douglas Balder. A 14,000-pound roll of steel, one of three on Velasquez’s flatbed trailer, also came free and struck a tollway aid vehicle. The driver, Illinois Tollway Authority employee Vince Petrella, was killed.

In the end, the judge found Velasquez guilty of operating a commercial motor vehicle in a fatigued state, failure to comply with hours of service requirements, driving too fast for condition and failure to yield to emergency vehicles.

Current laws limit commercial operators to 11 hours behind the wheel over a 14-hour shift and requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift. It also limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours.

According to authorities, Valasquez clearly violated those federally mandated guidelines, drastically changing his life and the lives of those impacted by that fatal crash forever. His decision to get behind the wheel is a reminder of what can horribly go wrong when you are not well-rested. Had Velasquez gotten the proper amount of sleep before driving, Petrella, the toll worker, would be alive today and the trooper would not be subjected to a life of pain and suffering.

The truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman & Associates have experience holding fatigued truck drivers and their companies responsible when they injure or kill an innocent victim. If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call us today to learn how we possibly can help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

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Semi Driver Distracted By Chihuahua, Flips 18-Wheeler Over

Courtesy: WVUE

Courtesy: WVUE

In 2012, there were 104,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks—an increase of 18 percent from 88,000 in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

You can bet that some of those accidents were due to distracted driving. According to Louisiana State Police, that seemed to be the case on Tuesday when a big rig driver overturned his 18-wheeler while driving along the interstate.

Investigators say the accident happened after the driver got distracted by his Chihuahua. When firefighters responded to the scene, they reportedly found the 18-wheeler on its side on an I-12 exit ramp. The driver was able to get out on his own, but the dog died in the accident.

Troopers say they did not cite the driver, Gary Edmond Bessant of Rutledge, Tennessee. The truck was said to be hauling coffee for Folgers when it overturned while exiting a foggy I-12 west at Louisiana 434.

Luckily, there were no other vehicles involved in this accident; otherwise, the outcome likely would have been far worse. When an 18-wheeler or other heavy truck collides with passenger vehicles on the road, the consequences can be not only horrific but often fatal.

According to the FMCSA, more than 30 percent of fatal crashes involve some sort of driver error or negligence due largely to either speeding, distracted driving or failure to yield right of way.

We often associate texting or talking on the phone with distracted driving; however, it involves so much more than that. A pet, as in this case, can also be a distraction. Even taking your eyes off the road for only a second can have dire consequences.

While this driver lost his dog, it could have been much worse. Had the driver of this 18-wheeler injured another person on the highway, he and his trucking company would have very likely been the subject of a civil lawsuit. Depending on the extent of the other person’s injuries, the semi driver could have also faced criminal charges.

Law enforcement and safety advocates can’t stress it enough: distractions can kill. They have no place on the roadways when you’re behind the wheel driving. It’s so vital that a person’s full attention and eyes are devoted to the road at all times.

If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call the truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman and Associates LLC today to learn how we may be able to help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

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FMCSA Shares Details Of Its Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Restart Study

Courtesy: marksontok via Flickr

Courtesy: marksontok via Flickr

Fatigue and long driving hours have been implicated in many commercial truck crashes over the years. Some studies have reported that roughly 30 percent of them were due to driver fatigue.

Under federal regulations, commercial drivers are permitted to drive no more than 10 hours before having an 8-hour break and cannot work more than 70 hours over an 8-day period.

Several studies have suggested that violations of these rules are common. In fact, in a Journal of Public Health Policy article, titled “Long Hours and Fatigue: A Survey of Tractor-Trailer Drivers,” investigators talked to 1,249 semi drivers.

What they found was rather alarming. Thirty-one percent of the drivers admitted to having driven more than the weekly hours-of-service limit of 60 hours over seven days or 70 hours over eight days.

Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released details of a congressionally mandated study that started earlier this month. The study measures and compares the fatigue and safety performance levels of truck drivers who take at least two nighttime rest periods during their 34-hour restart break and those drivers who use one nighttime rest period during their restart break.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Driver Restart Study is comparing five-month work schedules and assessing crashes, near-crashes, crash-relevant conflicts, operator fatigue/alertness, and short-term health outcomes of the two groups of CMV drivers.

According to FMCSA officials, the sample of drivers will be large enough to produce statistically significant results. The study will be comprised of drivers from small, medium, and large fleets across a variety of operations (long-haul, short-haul, and regional). The study plans to include different sectors of the industry such as flat-bed, refrigerated, tank, and dry-van.

Data for this study started being collected this month and will end in July. Participants of this study can earn up to $2,166. They will also be equipped with a camera facing inward and a camera facing the road to monitor driving patterns. They will also be required to complete a five minute health background survey, sleep diary, caffeine log and perform smartphone based assessments. The data collected will remain confidential.

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FMCSA Releases New Smartphone App Containing Safety Data On Commercial Truck and Bus Companies

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tractor trailer accident statistics show that the roads of the United States witness over 500,000 accidents each year. That’s why the FMCSA is always looking for ways make the roadways safer and reduce traffic fatalities. An estimated 85 percent of those killed in commercial vehicle collisions are drivers and/or passengers.

This week the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a new smartphone app that will make it easier to access safety performance information for interstate truck and bus companies.

According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox, he hopes by making safety information more easily accessible to both law enforcement personnel and the general public, America’s highways will become safer.

“Safety is our highest priority, so we are committed to using every resource available at our finger tips to ensure the safety of travelers,” he said.

The app is called “QCMobile,” which stands for “Query Central Mobile,” and is expected to be a particularly valuable tool for state and federal law enforcement personnel, as well as insurers, brokers, freight-forwarders, and others interested in reviewing the USDOT registration and safety performance information of motor carriers.

“FMCSA will continue to use all the tools, resources, and partnerships available to further strengthen commercial vehicle safety across the country,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling.  “Aggressive safety enforcement, research, and technology development and deployment, combined with strong stakeholder participation, will continue to be directed toward removing unsafe trucks and buses from our roadways and protecting every traveler from needless harm.”

Law enforcement officers and commercial motor vehicle safety inspectors use customized software at the roadside to log-into national safety databases to obtain highly detailed safety information on all interstate truck and bus companies.

The new QCMobile app, which requires no log-in, immediately reveals whether the federal operating status of the carrier is authorized while helping to expedite an “inspect/pass” decision by a certified commercial vehicle safety inspector.

QCMobile retrieves data from a number of FMCSA sources and provides a clear summary of the results.  Law enforcement officers and safety inspectors then have the option of retrieving more detailed information on carriers covering their seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) that are a part of FMCSA’s cornerstone safety program, Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA).

The free QCMobile app is available for both Apple and Android devices. Visit the iTunes App Store or Google Play to download QCMobile.

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Authorities: 18-Wheeler Crosses Center Line, Kills Pickup Driver

Courtesy: KNOE-TV

Courtesy: KNOE-TV

A Louisiana man lost his life Tuesday after the vehicle he was driving was struck by an 18-wheeler, authorities stated. According to Louisiana State Police, shortly before 4:30 p.m. officers were called to investigate a two-vehicle fatal crash that occurred on U.S. 425 approximately 2 miles north of the city of Wisner. Investigators say that 61-year-old Alex Brown Jr. was driving a 2000 Chevrolet pickup north on US Highway 425 just as a 2006 Freightliner 18-wheeler, driven by 71-year-old David Minor of Natchez, Mississippi was traveling south on US Hwy 425.

For unknown reasons at this time, police stated that the 18-wheeler crossed the median and struck the vehicle Brown was driving. Brown was reportedly wearing his seat belt, but sustained fatal injuries due to the severity of the crash and was pronounced dead on scene by the Franklin Parish Coroner’s Office.

Minor was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries; however, he was cited for careless operation.

Of course, there are still several unanswered questions relating to this case with the main one being: what caused the semi driver to cross the center line to begin with? Was he not paying attention to the road? If not, why not?

Interestingly enough, after releasing details of the case, authorities took the liberty to stress that “distracted and inattentive driving continue to be leading causes of crashes in Louisiana.”

“In 2015, Troop F has investigated 11 fatal crashes resulting in 11 deaths,” stated Sgt. Michael Reichardt with Louisiana State Police.

Distracted driving can include the following:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.

The numbers don’t lie. Distracted driving can have life changing consequences. Just don’t do it. If you have the urge to text, talk on the phone, adjust the radio, etc.—pull over on the side of the road. It could mean the difference between life and death.

Every year, the truck accident attorneys at EJ Leizerman & Associates represent dozens of clients injured by commercial vehicle drivers who were negligent on the road. If you or someone you know have been injured by a commercial truck, call us today to learn how we possibly can help with your case. Consultations are free. You can reach us at 1-800-628-4500.

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