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Series of safety failures leads to another preventable crash, 6 dead

Written by taar Posted March 28th, 2013

Without a safety net: Highway Star truck driver was following an SUV too closely, causing horrific truck accident, motor carrier had 17 tickets in two years

As a truck accident attorney and a safety advocate, this is the kind of story you never want to hear about.  A tractor-trailer owned by transport company Highway Star recently struck a Ford Expedition. The truck crash occurred on I-65 near Glendale KY, which is about 50 miles south of Louisville, KY.

Six people were killed in this horrific crash; including two young passengers, ages 10 and 8.

This is a terrible tragedy.

But here comes the cold water. It was entirely preventable. The trucking company involved, Highway Star, had been cited for 17 traffic violations over the past two years. To make that even worse, Highway Star only owns 34 trucks. This dangerous motor carrier should not have been operating, period.

The 17 traffic violations were for various infractions, including:

  • Speeding;
  • Improper lane change;
  • Failure to wear a seat belt; and
  • Following too closely to another vehicle.

According to published reports, Kentucky State Police Master Trooper Norman Chaffins said that this truck crash happened because the trucker was following the Ford Expedition too closely.  Highway Star, which had previously been cited for following cars too closely, apparently did not learn its lesson and still employed truck drivers who did not respect safety rules on the road.

This trucking company had demonstrated a clear pattern and practice of choosing to ignore mandatory safety regulations and the traffic safety laws.  And because this truck company did not follow the rules, six people are now dead.

The possibility of criminal charges is being explored at this time.

Why didn’t the FMSCA do its job?

But what about the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration (FMCSA)?  The FMCSA is responsible for authorizing truck companies to operate, as well as safely regulating them.  Why didn’t the FMCSA step in and do something about this reckless and dangerous company as the violations continued to mount?

Apparently, the FMCSA “advised” states to monitor Highway Star trucks with particular scrutiny.  Despite the warning, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also gave Highway Star Inc., a satisfactory rating because it determined their overall performance was “satisfactory” over the past two years.

How could any this be?  How could this company have been given a “satisfactory” rating after incurring 17 traffic violations in two years?  It is beyond this attorney.

This is one of the reasons why we created the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable: the need for meaningful enforcement measures by the FMCSA.

Duane DeBruyne, a spokesman for the FMCSA, said the purpose of the advisory warning is to put inspectors on notice that certain companies have proven themselves worthy of more thorough inspection. Clearly, the FMCSA advisory failed miserably here.

But here is the really frustrating part: the advisory notices calling for harsher inspection are not even mandatory.

This an instance of safety failures at all levels:

  • The people who died had a reasonable expectation of safety.
  • The truck driver chose to ignore his own CDL training by following the SUV too closely.
  • Highway Star trucking company chose to ignore mandatory safety regulations, continuing to employ dangerous truck drivers and cultivate a larger culture of disregard for safety, as shown by their 17 citations in two years.
  • Most disappointing, the FMCSA failed to enforce safety.
  • The FMCSA dropped the ball, deeming this company “satisfactory” and allowing them to operate, despite 17 violations in two years.

Now six people are dead.

Related information:

New safety management tool will break the cycle of truck companies looking the other way

Roundtable video: Fighting for safety and preventing truck accidents

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