Big Rigs Are Deadly, But Truck Drivers Often Safest On Road

by Jana Ritter - Published: 3/26/2013

22-year-old Alexandra Hamilton's life claimed in a collision with a fuel truck in Easton on Friday. Like 17-year-old Justin Gonzalez who died after a fuel truck accident in Brockton in 2011, and 54-year-old John Martin in Middleboro in 2005. But while all three lives were tragically claimed by fuel trucks, like many big rig involved fatalities, its often “under-mentioned” that none of the truck drivers were found at fault.


A preliminary investigation of Friday's fatal crash found that Alexandra Hamilton had been traveling Northbound and crossed the centerline. She entered the southbound lane, right in the path of a fuel truck and while the truck driver steered to the right trying to avoid a collision; Hamilton's car struck the left side of the truck behind the cab.

Fred Niccoli, part-owner of Niccoli Brothers Discount Oil, said some accidents can't be avoided and recalls the crash that killed Gonzalez in Brockton . The teen was on a mini-motorcycle when he collided with a Niccoli Brothers truck. “It is difficult to steer away because it's a big vehicle and it's carrying anywhere between 500 to 2,500 gallons, weighing over seven pounds a gallon,” said Niccoli. “My driver was devastated. There was nothing he could do about it.”

Niccoli also remembers in detail an accident in 1988 where one of his drivers had to tip his truck to avoid a school bus full of kids that was pushed into the truck's way when it was rear-ended. In fact, its often truck drivers who will go the full extent to avoid accidents and with any CDL holder being required to take safety courses, truck drivers are often the safest drivers on the road.

A recent reminder of just how good truck drivers are, is this year's Goodyear North America Highway Hero Award recipient. Chosen from four finalists, Jason Harte of Rogers, Ark., accepted the award last week during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. The truck driver became a hero when he rescued a family of six from a smashed minivan. Harte, who works for Missoula, Mont.-based Sammons Trucking, was driving down an interstate last July when he saw a speeding pickup truck push a minivan off the road and slam into another car, pushing it to the highway median.

While bystanders helped the car's driver, Harte dialed 911 and helped the man, woman and baby out of the van, then rescued the most accessible of the three other children trapped inside. Harte – also being a former paramedic – opened the van's back hatch and performed first aid on the next child, then pulled her out through the door. He pulled apart seats and cut seatbelts to rescue the remaining child. Calling upon his EMT experience, Harte helped rescue crews tend to the victims' injuries, which ranged from broken legs to internal bleeding, until ambulances could whisk them away.

"Jason's decision to offer assistance is a powerful example of the selflessness exhibited by professional truck drivers. Because of his actions, lives, in all probability, were saved. For this, Jason has earned the right to be called a hero," said Gary Medalis, director of marketing, Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems.