Today brings the third installment in the The Dallas Morning News’ truly frightening three-part series about road hazards caused by trucking companies that hire inexperienced drivers, and fail to maintain their big rigs. This is a must-read article. Here is the beginning of today’s installment:
By the time a state investigator visited SDS Trucking Inc. in April 2005, the Midlothian building materials hauler had been in 10 traffic accidents in 12 months. One accident killed a motorcyclist, and four others injured 12 people.
An in-depth examination of the company’s records found enough safety violations to earn SDS a rating of unsatisfactory, the lowest possible in the compliance review system that Texas uses to evaluate trucking company safety. Two months later, the Texas Department of Public Safety ordered SDS to cease operations.
Research suggests that the threat of shutdown implicit in a compliance review reduces truck-related accidents and saves lives. One expert called compliance reviews “the nuclear weapon” of safety enforcement.
DPS officials, too, regard compliance reviews as one of their most effective tools in improving the safety performance of high-risk motor carriers.
But last year in Texas – which leads the nation every year in deaths from large-truck accidents – DPS completed compliance reviews for only one of every 10 companies it identified as the biggest potential dangers on the road.
“There are just a whole lot of companies that slide under the radar screen and never do get audited,” said Bill Webb, the immediate past president of the Texas Motor Transportation Association, which represents trucking companies.