The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared Kentucky-licensed truck driver Benjamin Scott Brewer to be an imminent hazard to public safety.

As a result, Brewer has been ordered him to not operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce following his involvement in a nine-vehicle, six fatality crash that occurred June 25, 2015, along Interstate 75 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Brewer, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder, was served the federal order on July 19, 2015.

Pete Kotowski, the NTSB investigator in charge, told WRCB-TV Brewer was in his first week of work for the London, Kentucky employer and was involved in another accident in Wildwood, Florida, the day before he crashed in Tennessee.

Because of the severity of the crash, the NTSB deployed an investigative team of 11; typically five are sent, the TV station reported.  An ongoing post-crash investigation by FMCSA investigators revealed that Brewer had falsified his records-of-duty status in the days leading up to the crash, specifically reporting that he had been off-duty from June 15 until 7:00 a.m. on June 25.   The vehicle tracking system used by his employer, along with other records, shows that Brewer had been on-duty and driving on June 22, 23, and 24.

Brewer’s application for employment, dated June 16, 2015, and which required him to list all accidents and traffic convictions occurring in the previous three years, omitted a June 2013 crash and a January 2015 citation for speeding 16-20 miles-per-hour above the limit.

In May 2015, Brewer tested positive for controlled substances following a court-order controlled substances test.

The FMCSA will continue to assist the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is leading the investigation into the June 25, 2015, crash.

According to the Chattanooga Free Times Press, the company that Brewer worked for, Cool Runnings Express, has had safety problems in the past. Inspectors have shut down the company’s trucks because of safety issues with brakes three times since 2013.

The newspaper added that Police in Wisconsin suspected Brewer may have been selling drugs when they arrested him on one count of possession of a prescription drug in 2013. Brewer was arrested in that state after he tried to fill a Florida prescription for a 28-day supply of oxycodone, according to a Janesville police incident report. The pharmacist reportedly thought the request was suspicious and called police.

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Feds Shut Down Bus Company For Alleged Unsafe Vehicles

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently ordered a Utah-based bus company to cease all operations after repeatedly operating unsafe vehicles and for failing to comply with a 2014 federal consent order, FMCSA officials stated.

FMCSA officials stated that Deseret had undergone a compliance review by investigators in late 2013 which ultimately resulted in an unsatisfactory safety rating, prohibiting the company from conducting commercial operations.

According to the company’s website, Deseret Bus Leasing, Inc. had been locally owned, serving the state of Utah since 1977 with “thousands of happy customers.” As of August 2nd, the site’s url no longer loads. The bus company primarily transported children.

The company issued a statement to KSL-TV on Saturday. Although a spokesperson for Deseret Bus confirmed it had, in fact, been issued a cease operations order, the company was “in the process of submitting an administrative review request for the change in safety rating in accordance with DOT rules and regulations.” They also claim initial information was inaccurate but did not elaborate.

In June 2014, following an in depth review by FMCSA of the company’s safety management plan, and upon entering into a federal consent order, Deseret’s safety rating was upgraded to conditional as long as Deseret implemented its safety management plan and complied with the terms of the order.

According to officials, the federal consent order detailed not only the corrective actions the company had taken, but outlined the steps it had agreed were necessary to ensure compliance with federal safety regulations.  These corrective actions included, among others, ensuring that Deseret’s leased and company-owned vehicles were systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained.

Deseret Bus Service further agreed to submit quarterly reports to FMCSA’s Utah Division and provide updated lists of drivers, records of duty status summaries, driver vehicle inspections reports, and all annual and roadside/terminal inspections.

Between January and May 2015, Deseret was subject to 15 vehicle inspections.  On seven occasions, safety inspectors found serious violations that posed a risk to public safety and required vehicles to be placed out-of-service.  Safety violations included defective brakes and brake warning systems, insufficient tire-tread, broken leaf springs, and exhaust leaks.

In its federal consent order, Deseret had also agreed to immediately terminate any driver who knowingly operated a vehicle that had been placed out-of-service before it was repaired.  On multiple occasions, a single driver was found to repeatedly operate a Deseret vehicle that had been placed out-of-service; the driver is still employed by the company.

Operating in violation of an out-of-service order without federal operating authority and a USDOT number may result in civil penalties up to $60,000 for each transportation operation, as well as criminal penalties that may include fines up to $25,000 and imprisonment not to exceed one year.

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CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Trooper Lucky To Be Alive After Semi Hits Patrol Car

Courtesy: KCCI-TV

Courtesy: KCCI-TV

Iowa State Trooper Tracy Bohlen is counting his lucky stars these days.

Recently, a semi-truck carrying batteries caught on fire after crashing into a ditch. According to WHO-TV, a man and a woman were inside the 18-wheeler and were able to escape after the driver kicked out the windshield.

Trooper Bohlen was quick to arrive on scene and began directing traffic. However, in the middle of doing so the driver of a SECOND semi came through and lost control, sideswiping Bohlen’s patrol vehicle.

“I’ve been struck before on the interstate with cars and stuff like that but I haven’t been struck or been that close to an 80,000 pound semi,” Bohlen stated. “This was definitely probably the closest call I’ve had in a long time.

Amazingly, dashcam video caught the whole thing on tape. The video shows the 18-wheeler coming up behind the patrol car, then slamming on its brakes. The semi cab makes it around the car, but the trailer brakes appear to lock up and the back end slides around and sideswipes it.

KCCI-TV reported that Bohlen was sitting in his patrol car when he saw the jackknifed semi in his rear view mirror. Fortunately, he was not injured. After watching the video for himself, Bohlen says he knows he’s lucky to be alive.

“Once it’s all over and then you have that opportunity to sit in your car and go, ‘Wow this could have been a lot worse than what it was,’” he said.

The damage to Bohlen’s car is estimated to be around $3,000. According to Iowa State Patrol officials, the driver of the second semi was ticketed for not moving over for emergency responders.

The State of Iowa actually has a ‘move over law.’ It requires drivers to move over or slow down when approaching emergency vehicles that are stopped or have their lights flashing.

This is not the first time Trooper Bohlen has been in the spotlight. In May, he made national headlines for saving a man whose heart had stopped as he was driving on one of Iowa’s most crowded highways.

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FBI: Truck-Driving School Targeting Russian Speakers Busted For Illegal Licensing

According to FBI officials, federal and state authorities recently charged three Florida residents with operating a fraudulent business for commercial driver’s licenses.

Ellariy Medvednik, 48, Natalia Dontsova, 49, Adrian Salari, 44, and Clarence Davis 76, have all been officially charged with conspiracy to aid and abet the unlawful production of Florida driver licenses and commercial driver licenses (“CDLs”).

According to the indictment, the defendants in the case were affiliated with a business call Larex, Inc., a commercial truck driving school. Larex marketed itself to Russian speakers online. Individuals residing out-of-state seeking Florida CDLs would contact Medvednik to arrange for Larex’s services at the cost of approximately $2,000.

Officials claim that these individuals would then travel to Florida to obtain their CDLs with the intention of returning to their home states immediately afterward. However, to obtain a Florida CDL, an individual must first possess a Florida driver license.

United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley III has stated that the State of Florida restricts its driver licenses and CDLs to Florida residents. Medvednik, Dontsova, and Salari conspired to provide false documentation that the individuals resided with them, so that the individuals could obtain Florida driver licenses, authorities stated.

After allegedly providing the false residency certifications, Larex assisted the students with the additional requirements for obtaining a CDL. First, Dontsova, using covert communication equipment, provided answers to the students during the written portion of the CDL exam, the successful completion of which led to the issuance of a commercial learner’s permit, Bentley stated.

Second, Larex hired Davis, a third-party tester authorized by the State of Florida, to administer vehicle inspection tests, basic control skills tests, and road tests. According to the United States Attorney, Davis routinely passed and certified students who should have failed based on their test performance.

As a result of Davis’s certifications, the individuals were able to obtain Florida CDLs. In return, Davis received from Medvednik approximately $75 per student above his posted rate. At least 600 individuals have been identified as utilizing Larex’s services with Davis as the third-party tester.

Bentley has stressed that all parties are innocent until proven guilty.

“An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty,” Bentley released in a statement.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the Florida Highway Patrol. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Embry J. Kidd.

If convicted on all counts, each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison.

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Samsung Looks To Make The Roadways Safer With Its “Invisible Truck”

Every year there are hundreds of accidents involving big rigs. In 2013, there were more than 327,000 large truck crashes on U.S. roads. Of that number more than 3,500 of them involved one or more fatalities and more than 69,000 resulted in injuries.

A company, however, known for manufacturing cell phones and other cool gadgets wants to change that. Samsung Electronics officials say it is currently working on technology that would let people see through giant trucks on the road. Sounds like something straight out of Star Trek, doesn’t it?

You’re probably wondering, “How does this fancy technology actually make the highways safer for drivers?” According to CNN Money, if you’re stuck behind a large truck, you’ll have a clear, real-time view of oncoming traffic. You can also see any obstacles or traffic that might otherwise catch you off guard.

By making this technology available to the public, Samsung believes that it will reduce collisions on the roadways, in turn, making them safer, they say, for everyone.

These “transparent trucks” are made possible thanks to a front-mounted camera that captures a view of the road ahead of the truck. This new technology from Samsung then transmits a continuous view of the road in front of the truck to exterior monitors mounted on the rear of the truck.

As a result, drivers get a better view of the roadways in real time, allowing them to foresee obstacles or traffic nightmares that would otherwise catch them off guard.

While we would certainly welcome this new technology, don’t expect to see any “high-tech semis” on the road anytime soon. The project, unfortunately, is still in the early stages. Samsung has been doing some testing in Argentina. (A YouTube video on it can be found here.)

Almost everyone hour, at least one person dies in a car crash in that county. According to a Samsung post, that country was chosen because it has the fifth highest number of car accidents in the world.

While we along the rest of the world will have to wait for this new technology to officially hit the market, we eagerly await its arrival. Anything aimed at reducing traffic accidents and saving lives gets an ‘A+’ in our books.

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FMCSA Shuts Down Trucking Companies in Illinois, Georgia; Considers Them Imminent Hazards to Public Safety

FMCSA logoThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has ordered Payson, Illinois-based Rhino Displays and Hampton, Georgia-based Prudential Carriers, Inc., to immediately shut down following two separate federal investigations that revealed numerous widespread violations of critical safety regulations.

According to officials, in July 2010, Rhino, a fireworks display company, informed FMCSA in writing that it had closed the commercial fireworks transportation portion of its business.

However, on May 30, 2015, FMCSA safety investigators discovered that Rhino had transported fireworks to a baseball stadium in Hannibal, Missouri.  After further investigation of the cargo, the driver and the truck, multiple safety violations were uncovered.

Authorities say they discovered opened and improperly secured packages of fireworks; absence of a federally required fire extinguisher in the vehicle; presence of alcohol in the vehicle; the driver not possessing a commercial driver’s license (CDL), a hazardous materials endorsement, or a valid medical certificate; no records of duty status; no Hazardous Materials Safety Permit (HMSP); no hazmat placarding on the vehicle; and absence of required shipping papers.

The federal out-of-service order dated June 4, 2015, states “These widespread violations substantially increased the likelihood of serious injury or death to Rhino Display’s drivers and the public.”

In late May 2015, FMCSA safety investigators initiated an investigation of Prudential following the carrier’s recent involvement in several crashes, including a May 12, 2015, incident in which the company instructed the driver to continue operating a truck that was transporting a damaged, leaking load of canola oil onto Interstate 75 in Georgia.

Four separate vehicle crashes resulted from the extremely slick and hazardous road conditions caused by the leaking oil before the driver was stopped and arrested by law enforcement officers.

The federal out-of-service order dated June 5, 2015, states that the investigation “… uncovered widespread regulatory violations demonstrating Prudential’s repeated and egregious non-compliance with (federal safety regulations) and a management philosophy indifferent to motor carrier safety.”

These violations included: failing to ensure its leased and company-owned vehicles were systematically inspected, repaired and maintained; failing to ensure its drivers complied with federal hours-of-service regulations designed to prevent fatigued driving; failing to comply with driver qualification requirements and allowing unqualified drivers to operate a commercial motor vehicle; and failing to comply with FMCSA-mandated random alcohol and controlled substances testing of its drivers.

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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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