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Tractor Trailer Driver Had Little Sleep Before Crash That Killed Seven Children

By May 8, 2007July 18th, 2019Highway Safety, Trucking Accidents

A tractor trailer crashed into the back of a car which had stopped for a school bus, when it was struck from behind by a tractor trailer that pushed the car 272 feet and the school bus 328 feet, causing the car to burst into flames. The seven children in the car were killed.
Investigators investigating the cause of the crash found no mechanical failure, no obstruction that would have prevented the driver from seeing the stopped vehicles, and no evidence of drug or alcohol use by the truck driver. A re-enactment showed that the stopped bus and car could be seen for 1,400 feet away, but found only light skid marks of the tractor trailer a short distance before the impact.
The driver, Alvin Wilkerson, made an initial statement, but refused to be interviewed by the National Transportation Safety Board.
A police record check showed Wilkerson had four traffic citations and two arrests since 1997. Further investigation found that except for a nap, the truck driver had been awake for 34 hours preceding the accident. At the time of the crash, the driver was driving a load of bottled water on a trip that was approximately 85 miles. Evidence from witnesses and the driver’s log book showed he was making deliveries and loading and unloading trucks during a 34 hour period.
Investigators were also looking at factors other than fatigue, including the fact that the driver had a dog in the cab with him. Investigators found that he was not talking on a cell phone. The owner of the tractor trailer, Crete Carrier Corp. out of Lincoln, Nebraska, operates over 5,000 trucks and employs over 5,000 drivers. Accident investigators hope to learn more from the accident from data recorders, but neither the tractor trailer nor the bus had a black box or other type recorder. An electronic engine control module on the truck that is capable of recording braking and vehicle speeds did not record that information prior to the crash sequence.
According to information from drivers who have worked for Crete in the past, they use Qualcomm to monitor their drivers. The basic modules of the Qualcomm system include miles and routing software. Anyone at the company that has access to the Qualcomm system can pull up what the driver has done. Qualcomm also works off a GPS system. The company can easily determine if the driver is violating the Federal Motor Carrier Safety hours of service laws. Some drivers claim that a driver can thwart the Qualcomm system by not accurately reporting the miles of service. It seems like it is time for federal regulations making systems that track through GPS the miles and hours of service that the vehicle actually drives in which it is not as easy for drivers the cheat the system. Trucking companies, of course, do not want this because it places the clear responsibility to monitor the drivers on them and it prevents high mileage drivers who thwart the system from being able to do so.