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7 people, including 5 children, are killed, 8 hurt in Florida crash involving 2 big rigs, 2 passenger vehicles

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The church van headed south was packed with children, an hour to go before reaching Walt Disney World after a 700-mile trip from Louisiana.

A semitruck, operated by Prime Inc. of Springfield, Missouri, rumbled nearby.

In Interstate 75’s northbound lanes Thursday afternoon near Gainesville, another semi, this one operated by Eagle Express of Homewood, Illinois, and a car smashed into each other, the Florida Highway Patrol says. The velocity and weight of that now out-of-control semi burst through the metal guardrail, taking the car with it.

The two semis, the van, and the car slammed into each other, diesel fuel leaked and the mass erupted in a fireball.

A fifth car, unable to avoid the chaos, sped through, possibly hitting victims ejected from the vehicles, the highway patrol said. Five of the children, ranging from about 8 to teenagers from a Pentecostal church in Marksville, Louisiana, and the two truck drivers died. At least eight others were injured, some seriously.

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Flames engulf vehicles after a fiery crash along Interstate 75 Thursday about a mile south of Alachua, near Gainesville, Florida. Highway officials say seven people have died after a crash and diesel fuel spill sparked a massive fire along the Florida interstate. (Associated Press: WGFL-Gainesville)

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“It is a heartbreaking event,” Lt. Patrick Riordan said Friday. Identities of the victims have not been released. He did not identify the church involved, but an unnamed volunteer from the Avoyelles House of Mercy church in Marksville and quoted in the Facebook page of U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said the congregation lost “half of our babies” in the crash.

Church officials did not immediately respond to phone calls.

Riordan said the cause of the initial crash remains under investigation.

The accident occurred on a clear day along a straight, flat stretch of Interstate 75 outside Gainesville, the home of the University of Florida. It is a busy stretch of a highway that connects Florida to the rest of the South, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.

Its lanes fill daily with semis carrying produce and goods that barrel among cars, vans, and buses filled with tourists headed to and from Orlando, Tampa, and southern Florida.

Vinnie DeVita said he was driving south and narrowly escaped the crash — he saw it in the rearview mirror, immediately behind him, according to a report by WKMG .

“If I had stepped on the brake when I heard the noise, undoubtedly, I would have been in that accident,” DeVita said. “And then within probably 15 to 20 seconds of it all, it exploded. I mean, just a ball of flames.”

Nicole Towarek was traveling northbound with her family when they came across the scene. She told the Gainesville Sun that black smoke billowed, people were laid out near vehicles, there were long skid marks across the roadway and emergency workers were converging on the area.

“We kept seeing these little explosions and fire,” she said. “The heat, it was insane.”

The National Transportation Safety Board would normally send a team to help with the investigation, but cannot because of the federal government shutdown. Riordan said Friday that will not impede the highway patrol’s efforts, which could take months.

Florida Department of Transportation Troy Roberts said the agency is investigating whether the guardrail should have stopped the northbound crash from crossing the highway or whether the crash was too traumatic.

“The guardrails are there to stop as much as they can, but there are some things they cannot,” Roberts said. “Unfortunately, in this case, they did not.”

It was the worst accident on I-75 in Alachua County since January 2012, when 11 people died in a chain reaction crash attributed to heavy fog and smoke on the roadway, which crosses Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.

Officials were criticized then for not closing the road due to worsening conditions, and later installed cameras, sensors and large electronic signs to help prevent similar crashes.

 

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The Nation

Drivewyze adds new mountain corridor safety notification service

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With the mountain alerts, Drivewyze subscribers will have their drivers receive in-cab alerts of upcoming safe locations to pull over for brake check inspections, and see prompts to gear low while showing suggested maximum speeds down steep grades. (Courtesy: DRIVEWYZE)

GOLDEN, Colo. — Drivewyze has added to its Drivewyze Safety Notifications service with the launching of mountain corridor safety alerts.

The new service, free to current Drivewyze customers, was released in conjunction with a Colorado Department of Transportation’s news conference that launched its “The Mountain Rules” truck safety campaign.

The conference was held Tuesday near the Mount Vernon Canyon runaway truck ramp, near Golden.

“It’s no secret that our mountains create immense challenges for semi-truck drivers,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew.  “The Mountain Rules has a simple mission – to get everyone home safely and this campaign, which supports CDOT’s Whole Safety – Whole System initiative, is a major step towards achieving that goal.”

“I want to dispel any misconceptions, myths or rumors about truck ramps for all commercial carriers who travel our mountain corridors,” said Col. Matthew Packard of the Colorado State Patrol. “Commercial carriers will not be cited by law enforcement for using truck ramps. Should your brakes fail, please save lives and use the ramps.”

With the alerts, Drivewyze subscribers will have their drivers receive in-cab alerts of upcoming safe locations to pull over for brake check inspections and see prompts to gear low while showing suggested maximum speeds down steep grades. It will also alert drivers of upcoming runaway ramps. Colorado is Drivewyze’s first state in the new alert program. Seven Colorado mountain passes are part of the Drivewyze Safety Notifications package, with 22 more states to follow by the end of August.

According to Brian Mofford, vice president of government experience at Drivewyze, Colorado’s I-70 west, which goes from Vail Pass from the west, through Eisenhower Tunnel (elevation 11,158) to Mt. Vernon Canyon to the east, represents 60 miles of difficult driving.

“It’s a challenge for truck drivers, with steep grades and heavy traffic, especially for those new to mountain driving,” Mofford said. “Drivers have to be in tune with their surroundings, check their brakes and be prepared for constant downshifting and speed control. Brakes can get hot and fail for those who are not ready. It’s why we also have notifications for runaway ramps as a last resort safeguard for a safe stop. Our alerts will help keep preparations top of mind to help keep truck drivers and the motoring public safer.”

I-70 is known as having one of the country’s most difficult passes for truck drivers. A runaway truck in April slammed into stopped traffic near Lakewood, killing four people. Other tragedies have been averted thanks to truck drivers using the corridor’s five runaway truck ramps along the route. The Lower Straight Creek runaway truck ramp along westbound I-70 at milepost 211.83 is the most used truck ramp in the United States, being used once a week on average during the summer months.

“The goal is to not have to use the ramps at all, by having drivers better prepared,” Mofford said. “Our alerts will keep safety front and center and prompt drivers to check their brakes, allowing them to cool down, and remind them to downshift to a lower gear.”

In addition to I-70, Drivewyze is providing alerts for Rabbit Ears Pass, Loveland Pass, Monarch Pass, Slickrock Pass, Wolf Creek Pass and Coal Bank Pass.

The mountain corridor alerts join two other Drivewyze Safety Notifications that were introduced last month. Rollover alerts, on targeted exit ramps and curves, are geofenced at 500 locations in 32 states, while l,500 low-bridge warnings are given to drivers approaching bridges in the United States, with 300 more just added on Canadian roadways.

Both the Drivewyze PreClear weigh station bypass application, and the Drivewyze Safety Notifications service, are available to carriers on supported ELDs and other in-cab devices, through the Drivewyze partner network. Subscribers interested in deploying the Drivewyze safety notifications service should contact their ELD or in-cab device provider, or their Drivewyze customer success manager.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CDL Meals offering special promotion for driver appreciation week

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CDL Meals are chef developed using wholesome, organic ingredients and offer a flavorful balanced meal that includes protein, carbs, and vegetables. (Courtesy: CDL MEALS)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — CDL Meals, the division of Fresh n’ Lean that focuses on nutritious offerings for truck drivers, is offering a special promotion to help transportation companies celebrate National Driver Appreciation Week.

For National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (NTDAW), fleet operators can purchase discounted meals and receive free Hot Logic heating bags.

There is a minimum purchase of 50 meals required to receive the free bag. Purchases of 100 meals receive two free bags.

Companies can also purchase gift cards for drivers to buy meals at their convenience. Orders are being taken through August 30.

The annual NTDAW, taking place this year September 8-14 commemorates and honors all professional drivers for their hard work and commitment to one of the country’s most demanding jobs.

“We are proud to support drivers across the country with delicious food that encourages better health,” said Bob Perry, director of CDL Meals. “This special promotion gives fleets a chance to support their drivers with something that’s good for them, too.”

The nature of truck driving can also lend itself to a less than healthy lifestyle, which is why CDL Meals focuses solely on this underserved profession.

CDL Meals are chef developed using wholesome, organic ingredients and offer a flavorful balanced meal that includes protein, carbs, and vegetables. The meals are delivered fresh and can be refrigerated for up to seven days. The vacuum sealed trays can be heated quickly and enjoyed any time. Along with the meals, CDL provides a driver wellness education booklet with tips and suggestions to improve your health with easy lifestyle changes. Meals are $10 each for purchases up to 100 meals, with cost savings when purchasing more than 150 meals.

CDL Meals was launched earlier this year and was a beneficial part of the healthful transformation for Danny Jewell, 2018 Owner/Operator of the Year, who lost more than 25 pounds with the meal plan and coaching from Bob Perry, the Trucker Trainer.

With more than 50 years on the road and 6 million miles without an incident, Jewell was recognized for his professionalism and commitment to the industry.

 

 

 

 

 

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Safety council says motor vehicle deaths in 2019 projected to go below 40,000

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The estimate for 2019 caps a three-year period in which roadway deaths topped 40,000 each year for the first time since the mid-2000s. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

ITASCA, Ill. — Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council indicate the four-year upward trend in motor vehicle deaths that began in 2015 is ebbing with the number of fatalities in the first six months of 2019 dropping 3 percent compared to the same six-month period in 2018.

An estimated 18,580 people died on U.S. roadways between January and June of this year, compared to the council’s revised estimate of 19,060 during the same period last year. An additional 2.1 million people are estimated to have sustained serious crash-related injuries during the first six months of 2018 – a 1 percent drop from 2018 six-month projections.

The estimate caps a three-year period in which roadway deaths topped 40,000 each year for the first time since the mid-2000s.

A total of 118,315 people died on the roadways between 2015 and 2017, and an estimated 40,000 additional people perished last year.

However, drivers still face the same fatality risk this year as they did when fatalities were eclipsing 40,000 annually, because the estimated annual rate of deaths per miles driven has remained stable – NSC estimates 1.2 deaths per every million vehicle miles traveled, unchanged from 2018 rates.

“While the numbers indicate a slight improvement, the rate of deaths remains stagnant, and 18,580 deaths so far this year is unacceptable,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “We cannot accept death as the price of mobility. We urge all drivers to slow down, buckle up, pay attention and drive defensively.”

The council’s early estimates indicate significant progress in some states. In the first half of this year, several states have experienced at least a 10% percent drop in motor vehicle deaths, including Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma and Utah. A sample of states with increases through the first six months include Kentucky (6%), Hawaii (20%), Oregon (6%) and New Mexico (15%).

A complete list of state results is available here.

To help ensure safer roads, NSC urges motorists to:

  • Practice defensive driving. Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively, avoiding distractions. Visit nsc.org for defensive driving tips.
  • Recognize the dangers of drugged driving, including impairment from cannabis and opioids. Visit StopEverydayKillers.org to understand the impact of the nation’s opioid crisis.
  • Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits. Visit DriveitHOME.org for resources.
  • Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them. Visit MyCarDoesWhat.org for information.
  • Fix recalls immediately. Visit ChecktoProtect.org to ensure your vehicle does not have an open recall.
  • Ask lawmakers and state leaders to protect travelers on state roadways. The NSC State of Safety report shows which states have the strongest and weakest traffic safety laws.
  • Get involved in the Road to Zero Coalition, a group of more than 900 organizations across the country focused on eliminating roadway deaths by 2050. Visit nsc.org/roadtozero to join.

The National Safety Council has tracked fatality trends and issued estimates for nearly 100 years. All estimates are subject to slight increases and decreases as the data mature. NSC collects fatality data every month from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and uses data from the National Center for Health Statistics, so that deaths occurring within one year of the crash and on both public and private roadways – such as parking lots and driveways – are included in the estimates.

Supplemental estimate information can be found here.

The NSC defines “serious” injuries as those requiring medical attention.

The National Safety Council uses data from the National Center for Health Statistics – an arm of the CDC – when calculating its estimates, because these data are the most comprehensive and inclusive numbers available.

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