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Carrier involved in 2015 multi-fatality crash files for bankruptcy

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Benjamin Scott Brewer, center, appears before Judge Don Poole for arraignment in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on September 11, 2015. Brewer, a driver for Cool Runnings Express of London, Kentucky, who was involved in a fatal crash, was convicted on several counts and sentenced to 83 years in prison. Brewer’s employer recently filed for bankruptcy as a result of lawsuits following the accident. (Associated Press: DAN HENRY/Chattanooga Times Free Press)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Chattanooga television station WRCB is reporting that Cool Runnings Express, a London, Kentucky, motor carrier, has filed for bankruptcy as the result of lawsuits filed after a Cool Running Express truck was involved in an accident on I-75 that killed six and injured several others.

Cool Runnings Express owner Billy Ray Sizemore noted owing $331,323,904 in claims from lawsuits and said the company had assets of $101,423.93. The company is listed as an inactive carrier in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration database.

The truck was driven by Benjamin Brewer, who was found guilty of six counts of vehicular homicide and four counts of reckless aggravated assault and guilty of DUI and speeding.

He was sentenced to 83 years in prison.

Within days of the crash, the FMCSA declared Brewer to be an imminent hazard to public safety and ordered him not to operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.

The FMCSA said a post-crash investigation revealed that Brewer had falsified his records-of-duty status in the days leading up to the crash, specifically reporting that he had been off-duty from June 15 until 7 a.m. June 25.   The vehicle tracking system used by his employer, along with other records, shows that Brewer had been on-duty and driving on June 22, 23, and 24.

Brewer’s application for employment, dated June 16, 2015, and which required him to list all accidents and traffic convictions occurring in the previous three years, omitted a June 2013 crash and a January 2015 citation for speeding 16-20 miles-per-hour above the limit.  In May 2015, Brewer tested positive for controlled substances following a court-ordered test.

Documents show $3.5 million is owed to the Close family, the television station reported.

“They’re saying definitely this is a liability that’s out there hanging over our heads,” said attorney Danny Ellis.

Last year, eyewitnesses testified during Brewer’s trial, including Tina Close. She recalled the moments before the wreck.

“There was a semi coming behind us in our lane very fast,” Close said on the stand.

Close, her husband and their two young children were among those hurt while waiting in traffic. The family filed a lawsuit in May 2018 against Brewer and Cool Runnings Express, Inc. Ellis represents the family. He says they were set to start trial on Nov. 18, 2019. However, it was placed under an automatic stay (put on hold) because of the trucking company’s bankruptcy filing.

“I warned the Close family and then when I told them they filed, it was, ‘well, we thought that’s what was going to happen,’” Ellis said. “I feel pretty confident we can get it lifted.”

Since the bankruptcy was filed in London, Kentucky, Ellis says it will be up to a judge there to give them permission to move forward with their case.

“All of the different parties that have filed suit against Cool Runnings will approach the court and say, ‘we understand they have filed bankruptcy, but there’s this insurance policy in place. We will proceed against that. Also, if there are any assets left over, we are making a claim against those, as well,” Ellis said. “It’s one more hoop that we go through to get to that final day.”

It’s not clear when a decision will be made, but Ellis says the push to hold those responsible accountable will not stop.

“There’s a lot of unknowns. It could be 30 days. It could be three months, who knows,” Ellis said. “We have to look at the local rules to see if we have to hire a Kentucky attorney to file the proper motions with the bankruptcy court to move it forward.”

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The Nation

SBTC’s anti-ELD petition stalls, Lamb uses ‘phone call’ to put blame on OOIDA

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Small Business in Transportation Coalition President James Lamb tells viewers his investigators have uncovered evidence that the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is sabotaging his organization’s efforts to get 100,000 signatures on a petition to ask the White House to immediately suspend the ELD mandate. (Courtesy: SMALL BUSINESS IN TRANSPORTATION COALITION)

In an online editorial we posted August 22, we described the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) as positioning itself to be a one-organization wrecking crew targeting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the electronic logging device mandate.

In particular, SBTC and its president, James Lamb, have been on a tear against electronic logging devices.

(This is the same James Lamb who in early 2018 agreed to settle a probe into his business dealings brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which accused Lamb and several of his businesses of cheating owner-operators out of millions of dollars over the course of several years. Lamb denied the charges, but the FTC is in the process of paying out $900,000 to truckers who the FTC says were scammed.) 

After the FMCSA denied its application asking that carriers with under 50 employees be exempted from the ELD mandate, SBTC asked FMCSA to reconsider the denial. 

With no apparent hope that FMCSA would reverse its decision (remember ELDs were ordered by Congress), Lamb and SBTC have moved up the ladder to Congress and now to the White House.

AN EDITORIAL

Currently, SBTC is asking drivers to sign a petition asking Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and President Donald Trump to immediately suspend the ELD rule.

SBTC says it needs to have 100,000 signatures (it’s not likely to happen) before the White House will respond to the request to suspend the rule (that’s not going to happen).

On October 31, Lamb published an e-mail asking the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to join SBTC in support of the petition.

Lamb apparently never heard from OOIDA, and with his petition drive stalled at around 30,000, Lamb decided to blame OOIDA for the slowdown and appears to have set out to make his point with an elaborate scheme that he is reporting through his e-mail blasts to the media and others, claiming that OOIDA is sabotaging his petition effort.

In a video released at 5:20 p.m. Central time November 11, Lamb said he had some “disturbing” information regarding the ELD suspension petition.

“We have through our private investigators uncovered that OOIDA has been sabotaging our petition. We hired a private investigator to follow up on leads that we have received regarding possible interferences with our petition and boy, did we find out what’s going on here.

“I’m going to play you the tape the investigators sent me (actually the tape of the phone call made only hours or maybe even minutes before) so you can listen to it yourself and boy is it bad news for Todd Spencer (OOIDA president and CEO) and this woman … at OOIDA.”

That “call” was obviously definitely recorded November 11 because the caller mentioned having to work on the holiday, which was Veterans Day. The man said his name was Mike (he also used the name Michael).

It was easy to tell the call was a set up because the man who identified himself as Mike was obviously and purposely speaking into a recording device and recording the other end of the call from a speaker phone.

(An average observer would likely have thought the call was legitimate and that Lamb’s investigators had worked hard to uncover it, but we rather suspect it was a set up and the tape was handed to him shortly after it was made. Or he might even have been in the room when the “call” was made.

A transcript of the tape shows Mike told the woman at OOIDA he wasn’t a member of OOIDA but had heard about the petition campaign and wanted to know if OOIDA was in support of the petition.

He even claimed he’d never heard of James Lamb.

The woman at OOIDA offered to send Mike information about Lamb.

She asked for his e-mail address and after a long hesitation he gave two: mikeferrili@yahoo.com and mikeferilli@yahoo.com.

E-mails sent to those addresses by The Trucker bounced back as undeliverable. (Surprise, surprise).

Based on the transcript, Mike kept trying to coerce the woman into telling him not to sign the petition (the “call” lasted almost 15 minutes), but not once did she do that, only suggesting that petitions were not effective in getting change in Washington.

Contacting members of Congress is the most effective way, she said, citing an instance when OOIDA and its members contacted a Congressman, contacts that led to him reversing his support of speed limiters.

The woman told Mike that some members of OOIDA had signed the petition.

Mike kept on and on, obviously and in the opinion of this writer hoping the woman would tell him not to sign the petition, but the woman said absolutely nothing to discourage drivers from signing the petition.

At one point, the woman reminded Mike that OOIDA had been fighting against ELDs and their predecessors since 1978.

After the tape of the telephone “call” ended on his video, Lamb reiterated that OOIDA had done everything in its power to keep truckers from signing the petition.

“Mr. Spencer it looks like we have a problem. Our legal team (the same one that handed Lamb the tape of the supposed phone call) is going to be reviewing this and you are going to have some explaining to do to a judge,” he said.

We too, have a problem, and it’s with Mr. Lamb trying to lay the blame for his failure directly on someone else.

We call on Mr. Lamb and his organization to get off his anti-ELD horse.

That horse is in the barn, sir, and it’s not coming out.

If you are as powerful as you say you are, turn that power into doing something about the real issues that plague trucking today, matters such as driver pay, the lack of safe parking and driver detention, just to name a few.

OOIDA and many others in the trucking industry are really concerned about those issues.

So should you be.

 

 

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The Nation

Please grab hold. Please grab hold.

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As things turn colder around America, here is yet another video of a truckers ice encounter.
You know in their mind they were repeating… “please grab hold”!
Location: Somewhere along Lake Shore Drive in Decatur, IL.

Courtesy: WANDTV

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The Nation

86.5% of trucks inspected during CVSA Brake Safety Week had no OOS issues

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During a roadside inspection, if an inspector identifies critical vehicle inspection item violations, he or she will render the vehicle out of service, which means those violations must be corrected before the vehicle may proceed. (The Trucker file photo)

GREENBELT, Md. — The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance said Tuesday that inspectors conducted 34,320 commercial motor vehicle inspections during CVSA’s Brake Safety Week and placed 4,626 vehicles — or 13.5% — out of service after critical brake-related conditions were identified during roadside inspections.

CVSA noted that a majority — 86.5% — of vehicles inspected during the September 15-21 time period did not have any critical brake-related inspection item violations.

In 2018, CVSA said out of 35,080 inspections, 4,955 trucks — or 14.1% — were placed out of service.

In 2017, CVSA conducted only a Brake Safety Day, which resulted in 14% of trucks inspected being put out of service.

During a roadside inspection, if an inspector identifies critical vehicle inspection item violations, he or she will render the vehicle out of service, which means those violations must be corrected before the vehicle may proceed.

Sixty jurisdictions in Canada and the U.S. participated in this year’s Brake Safety Week.

In the U.S., 49 jurisdictions conducted 31,864 roadside inspections and placed 4,344 (13.6%) commercial motor vehicles out of service because of brake-related violations. In Canada, 11 jurisdictions conducted 2,456 roadside inspections and 282 (11.5%) commercial motor vehicles were placed out of service for brake-related violations.

As part of this year’s Brake Safety Week, inspectors also collected and reported data on brake hoses/tubing.

  • 2,567 units had chafed rubber hose violations.
  • 1,347 units had chafed thermoplastic hose violations.
  • 2,704 violations of § 393.45 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and Canadian equivalent violations included chafed rubber hoses.
  • There were 1,683 violations of § 393.45 of the FMCSRs and Canadian equivalent violations that included kinked thermoplastic hoses.

“Inspectors conduct more than 4 million roadside inspections every year and checking brake components is just one element of the inspection procedure inspectors perform on commercial motor vehicles every day,” said CVSA President Sgt. John Samis with the Delaware State Police. “This inspection and enforcement event reminds drivers and motor carriers of the importance of properly functioning brakes and spotlights the work done by inspectors, motor carriers and drivers every day to keep our roadways safe by ensuring vehicles are in appropriate working condition.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, highway crash fatality data for 2018, there was a 2.4% decline in overall fatalities, the second consecutive year of reduced crash fatalities. However, conversely, for 2018, large-truck related fatalities increased by 0.9%.

“While we applaud the decrease in the overall number of fatalities on our roadways last year, we’re alarmed by the increase in the number of large-truck-related fatalities,” Samis said. “CVSA conducts high-profile, high-visibility enforcement events, such as Brake Safety Week, to reduce the number of fatalities occurring on our roadways. Roadway safety is our number one priority and we will continue our efforts to improve brake safety throughout North America.”

Brake Safety Week is an inspection, enforcement, education and awareness initiative that is part of the Operation Airbrake Program sponsored by CVSA in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

 

 

 

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