Fleet Management

Fatal Accident Leads FMCSA to Investigate Small Alabama Carrier

April 28, 2017

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A fatal accident involving a driver falling asleep at the wheel led the Federal Motor Carrier Administration to investigate Beatrice, Ala.-based J&L Trucking and order its vehicles off the road.

On March 28, a J&L Trucking driver crossed the centerline on Alabama’s State Highway 13, crashing his truck head-on with a passenger vehicle, killing both of its occupants.

The trucker admitted that he had fallen asleep while driving and investigators found that the driver did not have his records-of-duty status for the previous seven days and no valid medical certificate. They also found multiple violations on the J&L Trucking vehicle, including unsafe tires, and oil and grease leaks.

This led to a full post-crash investigation of the two-truck company, which found it to be in violation of multiple federal safety statutes and regulations.

This included a complete lack of maintenance files or records showing that J&L’s trucks were regularly inspected, maintained, repaired, or meeting minimum safety standards. The company owner claimed that he had conducted periodic inspections and service, despite not being qualified to perform either function.

The company’s trucks were subjected to 12 unannounced roadside safety inspections in the previous two years and failed nine of them. The trucks were placed out of service for 80 violations, including inoperative lights, worn tires, leaks, a damaged windshield, and defective or missing brake warning components.

As demonstrated in the accident, the company didn’t monitor its drivers’ hours-of-service requirements and was unable to produce any records-of-duty status for two of three drivers. The company dispatched its drivers through cell phone messaging and did not keep a record of driver trips.  

According to the FMCSA report, one driver admitted that he was unfamiliar with filling out a log book and had never done so. One driver told investigators that he insisted on turning in his records-of-duty status but J&L officials never reviewed them for compliance with federal safety regulations.

Beyond that, J&L also failed to make sure its drivers were qualified, including not ensuring that drivers were licensed and physically qualified to operate a commercial vehicle. J&L Trucking was unable to produce any driver qualification file with requisite employment application, medical certificate, driver road test certificate, state motor vehicle record, prior employer inquiry or record of violations. The one employment applications the company’s officials did provide was found to be fraudulent.

As a result of these violations, FMCSA has declared J&L Trucking and its drivers imminent hazards and has ordered that the trucking company not participate in interstate trucking until it can prove that it has solved these issues.

The company may be penalized up to $25,705 for each violation of the out-of-service order with additional penalties possible. It may also face criminal penalties if the violations are determined to be willful. Those could include a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to a year. 

Comments

  1. 1. Brian - JetEx Logistics T [ April 28, 2017 @ 01:46PM ]

    Stories like this are always heartbreaking. Naturally, falling asleep at the wheel is something that could happen to anyone, and that is why steps must be taken by all transport companies to ensure that it doesn't happen.

  2. 2. Robert Schuster [ May 03, 2017 @ 07:51AM ]

    I was under the impression that comments were moderated. Why the spam advertising of Mark D Hughes?

  3. 3. Floyd [ May 05, 2017 @ 06:49PM ]

    Re: Brian's comment "falling asleep at the wheel could happen to anyone"...
    What are you talking about? There's absolutely no reason for a professional driver to ever "fall asleep at the wheel". That's not something that "just happens". That's like saying "being drunk at the wheel could happen to anyone"

  4. 4. Rob [ May 05, 2017 @ 08:05PM ]

    @floyd
    It is possible to fall asleep at the wheel. It's a type of driving hypnosis. When you drive continuously for hours your mind can wander and before you know it you've driven 15 or 20 miles with no recollection of having done it. It's a very real thing.

  5. 5. Brad [ May 05, 2017 @ 11:07PM ]

    1 thing I don't understand how can you put somebody in a commerical vehicle that don't know how to fill out a log book.. This accident should of never happen.. When I drive its mostly thru the night into the daylight and not once I have dose off or never knew what I was doing.. If you feeling tired and think you can't make it to your destanation find a safe place to pull over to get a couple hours of sleep.. That load can wait and money will be here when we dead an gone

  6. 6. Kevin [ May 06, 2017 @ 05:02AM ]

    It would have been a shorter to article to list the regs they did comply with. Also the people involved should be in jail, not out of service.

  7. 7. William Scott Womack [ May 07, 2017 @ 05:20AM ]

    Union drivers, By The Grace of God, and National master freight agreement by the teamsters have the best safety record in the history of trucking. And if the politicians And truckers alike do not realize this fact Of a standard that is unprecedented then it will continue to get worse . Fedex ground should be shut down as well with their very bad c. s. a. score . I have had the great privilege of seeing the harmonious business model created by a man named steve caddy who worked within the parameters of the national master freight agreement allowing the drivers and management right along with a stringent schedules of LTL freight , make it work , creating the best working environment For truck drivers and ALL employees. And last but not least , to address all the naysayers , yes the Union is corrupt , but the standard that was created, worked by the proper management is once again the best America has ever seen. So in other words it works if you have the people that make it work. And it is almost gone. You truckers and others reading this please for the love of your fellow trucker share this so this standard does not die.

  8. 8. Anthony Suarez [ May 07, 2017 @ 04:49PM ]

    Walmart has one of the best and clean driving records.

  9. 9. Jeff [ May 09, 2017 @ 07:27AM ]

    exact sample of the need for the FMCSA to visit carriers. this carrier has been operating for a long time like this. this accident could have been avoided if the carrier....hmmm and the Feds had done their jobs. too many times the FMCSA shuts down a carrier only after the damage is done.

  10. 10. MC [ May 10, 2017 @ 06:53AM ]

    @Jeff
    I agree wholeheartedly. This particular outfit should've been audited long ago. All those DOT violations in a short period of time should've triggered a red flag that could be seen from the moon. A 75% DOT inspection failure rate definitely shows a lack of regular maintenance, an unwillingness to stay in legal compliance and a complete disregard for public safety.

    Unfortunately, this was a two truck mom-n-pop outfit which are a dime a dozen. The FMCSA only has so much manpower to go around, and with Republicans steering the ship, that number (as well as their powers) is sure to shrink. It could take years just visit all the little carriers in one state, let alone 50 states. This is likely why they're forced to take a reactionary approach. Then there's the NAFTA carriers based in Canada and Mexico...FMCSA can inspect all their trucks and drivers while on US soil, but it has no authority to do an on-site audit.

  11. 11. Sergey K doft.com [ May 11, 2017 @ 07:10AM ]

    Well, the situation is awful. But there is a legal question - What can FMCSA do to be sure, that the vehicle placed out of service return to exploitation only after all the problems are fixed? It is physically impossible to visit every carrier with the inspection

  12. 12. RG [ May 11, 2017 @ 10:15AM ]

    Two issues: You cannot legislate the Physiology of people; people can only sleep when they need to. To try and sleep when you cannot (but must by rule) will make you more tired when driving again. And we are all different. Secondly, no one can operate safely if the truck is not paid fairly enough. Our legislators don't seem to get this! They put it all on the trucker!

 

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