Warning! Safety Violations Ahead: Motor Carrier Companies Keep Unsafe Trucks on U.S. Roads

by: Prince, Glover & Hayes Friday, March 19th, 2010

Part IX

In December 2002, Kim Hughes and her family were driving down a Texas state highway, returning from a holiday shopping trip, when an oncoming 18-wheel truck carrying a trailerload of sand crossed the road’s center line and collided with her GMC Yukon. Hughes, her 14-year-old son, 70-year-old mother, and 17-year-old daughter, pregnant with twins, were all killed. Her daughter’s 14-month-old son was the only survivor in the car.

The driver of the truck, an illegal immigrant name Ricardo Rodriguez was unharmed. Rodriguez had used a fake social security number to get a commercial driving license, and had a history of arrest and truck safety violations. After the crash, Rodriguez admitted to his employers, TXI Transportation Co., that he had entered the U.S. illegally, had exaggerated his truck-driving experience, and had a fake social security number. Despite this, he continued driving for TXI for 18 months.

TXI, a major Texas trucking company with more than 150 trucks, has a history of safety problems. A 2006 Dallas Morning News investigation found TXI trucks-over the course of just two years- were involved in 2 fatal crashes and 31 crashes resulting in injuries. This same investigation found, inspectors had pulled TXI drivers over 40 times, and the trucks themselves had failed 28.8% of inspections for such problems as defective brakes, bald tires or broke wheel rims.

Yet despite these safety violations, TXI was then, and conti8nues now, to be rated as “Satisfactory” by FMCSA. TXI thus does not appear in the list of companies with safety violations produced here. Which leaves two questions: how can a company with so many clear safety issues, and with such a deadly truck record, be considered “satisfactory;” and secondly, just how much worse are the companies that are considered “conditional” or “unsatisfactory”

A 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that “nearly one-third of commercial motor vehicle crashes that states are required to report to the federal government were not reported, and those that were reported were not always accurate, timely, or consistent. As Texas Department of Public Safety Officer John Pellizarri told the Dallas Morning News, “If the motoring public knew what was running down the road with them, they’d be really scared.”

The fact is the list of unsafe trucks may be merely the tip of the iceberg. So many deadly accidents turn out ot involve unsafe trucks that were not recorded as in violation of safety standards that there is reason to believe there may be many more than 200,000 unsafe trucks on U.S. roads.

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