The Columbia Daily Tribune recently published an article which discussed a tragic and fatal wreck occurring in Columbia in November of 2018. The wreck involved a tractor-trailer driver who did not brake for stopped traffic on Interstate 70 at highway marker 131. The traffic had stopped on I-70 that day due to another wreck on the highway further up the interstate.
While others had stopped or slowed, the truck driver involved in this wreck did not. Unfortunately, the wreck led to the unnecessary loss of four lives – including the driver of the tractor-trailer and three others who died from the resulting collision(s). The article does a deep dive into the safety standards within the trucking industry and highlighted troubling information about the wreck, about the trucking company involved in the wreck, and about trucking industry safety regulations.
As the article points out, an investigation performed by the Missouri Highway Patrol made the following findings:
- The MSHP couldn’t determine why the truck driver didn’t stop;
- The Missouri Department of Transportation had set up appropriate warnings to notify drivers of the wreck and of slowed traffic;
- Numerous brake lights were likely illuminated to further warn drivers of stopped cars;
- The truck was likely traveling at 57 mph when it collided with stopped cars.
The article digs deeper into truck wrecks nationwide and highlights that the National Transportation Safety Board, “recommended commercial carriers mandate forward crash avoidance systems to reduce the number of rear-end collisions,” but according to the president and CEO of the Missouri Trucking Association, the costs ($2,500 to $4,000) have caused many in the trucking industry to balk. Additionally, the specific trucking company which employed the driver in this wreck, Active USA, “employs 412 drivers, who together had 62 violations in the past 24 months and were involved in 23 crashes. Two of those, including the November crash, resulted in fatalities, and seven resulted in injuries.”
I was asked by the reporter to comment on truck wrecks and explained there’s typically a systemic failure within trucking companies that lead to these wrecks. After handling numerous trucking cases, I’m aware of the unreasonable demands put upon drivers and companywide failures in following safety protocols and procedures, particularly in hiring drivers or enforcing drivers to maintain accurate driving/sleeping logs.
Ultimately, a number of these wrecks happen not because they are “accidents,” but because certain trucking companies have decided to take shortcuts in not purchasing safety features like “crash avoidance,” and in allowing unsafe drivers on the road. Obviously, all drivers have a responsibility to avoid engaging in distracted and other unsafe driving behaviors, but I believe trucking companies have a larger obligation to society as a whole to ensure that they are carefully vetting and putting the right people behind the wheel of a big rig. As I explained in the article, unfortunately we often find out too late that the company has not lived up to its own internal standards.
I am grateful that the Tribune did an article on this important safety issue. Mid-Missouri is a hub for trade and commerce. Between Highway 63 and Interstate 70, there are countless truckers driving through our community on a daily basis. I think we are all glad to have the benefits that come along with patrons passing through our communities, but we don’t give up our rights to have safe roads in that exchange.
Trucking companies need to step up in big and small ways and implement (and ensure adherence to) common sense safety rules and purchase mechanisms, like “crash avoidance” for their trucks. These are just a few ways that they can ensure our roads are safe for all to use, particularly those who are not in giant trucks like the one involved in this wreck.