Tragic Crash That Killed 5 Students Exposes Trucking Company's "Appalling Safety Record"by Jana Ritter - Published: 4/24/2015
While investigators are still piecing together the “complicated details” about what exactly occurred during Wednesday’s tragic accident that killed five nursing students from Georgia Southern University, serious concerns are arising not so much about the truck driver involved in the crash but about what is being called the "appalling safety/violation history" of the trucking company he was driving for.
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According to the Georgia State Patrol, the chain-reaction crash involved two tractor-trailers and five passenger vehicles in total. At around 5:45 a.m. Wednesday morning, seven nursing students were riding in two cars (a Ford Escape and Toyota Corolla) from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro to a Savannah hospital on Interstate 16. Investigators believe that the crash was initiated when the truck driver (employed by Total Transportation) plowed into the students’ SUV then rolled over the small passenger car, causing it to burst into flames. Four students immediately died at the scene and three were taken to hospital with injuries, where the fifth student was later pronounced dead.
Authorities say that it is a complicated investigation that may take up to 6 months to complete and that it is still undetermined whether the truck driver, John Wayne Johnson, will face any criminal charges or traffic violations. But according to a witness who helped try to put out the fire at the scene, the truck driver is already devastated enough and had said, “He wish he died too.” Many are saying that this tragedy should not be a reflection of the truck driver himself but that the history of the company he was driving for should be a much bigger cause for concern.
In fact, when it comes to unsafe driving practices, Total Transportation of Mississippi is considered to be one of the worst trucking companies on the highway and with 929 violations, people are questioning how the federal government gave them an overall “satisfactory” rating never mind allowing them to continue to operate on the road. According to the US Department of Transportation records, of the 929 total, 266 of the violations were for unsafe driving in the last two years alone and this includes their drivers being cited 107 times for speeding, 45 times for disregarding traffic control devices, 9 times for improper use of a cell phone while driving, and 5 times for failing to maintain a safe following distance. Not to mention the company’s trucking fleet receiving over 500 citations for maintenance violations and being involved in 85 other crashes leading to a multitude of injuries.
Trucking lawyer, Mark W. Davis, says that Total Transportation’s terrible safety record can only be explained at the corporate level. “All too frequently, trucking companies in this country push their drivers to meet schedules that cannot be achieved without violating speed laws, cutting back on necessary safety inspections, or violating the hours of service regulations, which make certain that drivers get the rest needed to ensure public safety. Why? Usually the answer is simple. Profit. A corporate culture that places greater emphasis on dollars than safety.”
Do you think truck drivers should have more protection and less liability, especially when it comes to working for companies that push the limits?