Agency shuts carrier after fatal accident

Jill Dunn | September 03, 2010

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has shut down the company whose truck was involved in a March 26 accident that left 11 people dead in Kentucky.

The FMCSA placed Hester Inc. out-of-service on June 5, revoked the company’s DOT registration and required it to immediately cease interstate and intrastate transportation operations.

The order resulted from a compliance review of the Fayette, Ala., company, completed on April 5, which revealed serious violations of the agency’s rules and hazardous materials regulations. At that review, Hester was given a proposed unsatisfactory safety rating and allowed 60 days to improve its rating to conditional or satisfactory.

The agency also issued $13,950 in fines against the company for violating federal motor carrier safety regulations, said Candice Tolliver, FMCSA communications director. 

The accident occurred when the 76,660-pound tractor-trailer crossed the Interstate 65 median and struck a 15-passenger van. The 1999 Freightliner hit the 2000 Dodge van, killing the trucker and fatally wounding all but two of the van passengers. 

In a May 14 accident update, the NTSB said the trucker had left Lansing, Mich., about 4 p.m. the previous day and was headed to Cullman, Ala. Investigators said they would try to determine if the driver had violated hours-of-service rules, as the logbook was destroyed in a post-crash fire.

The trucker’s toxicology test did not indicate drugs or alcohol and no medical issues have been indicated that would have caused him to lose control. Investigators did not know if cell phone use was a factor in the accident, only that he had used his phone before the accident.

After a multiple-vehicle median crossover accident killed five people in 2008 on the same stretch, a cable barrier system was installed in 2009 at the edge of the left shoulder of the northbound lanes.