FMCSA closes investigation into autonomous truck crash

Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, March 8, 2023:

FMCSA’s investigation into TuSimple autonomous truck crash closed

Autonomous truck maker TuSimple announced last week that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has closed its investigation into a crash that occurred April 6, 2022, in which a TuSimple truck made contact with a concrete median divider in Tucson, Arizona. The incident resulted in no injuries.

After reporting of the April 6 incident, TuSimple said it responded to several requests from FMCSA, and the investigation concluded without any penalties brought against the company.

In addition, TuSimple cooperated with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the matter and confirmed that NHTSA did not open an investigation into the incident.

"We prioritize safety at TuSimple,” said Cheng Lu, President and CEO at the company. “After the incident, we halted autonomous operations, launched an internal review, and collaborated with regulators. Our review resulted in additional improvements in our systems and testing operations. We are committed to continuing our mission of developing a commercial-ready, fully autonomous (SAE Level 4) driving solution for long-haul heavy-duty trucks."

TuSimple had a tumultuous 2022, starting with the April crash. In September, the company became the subject of a class-action lawsuit from investors. In December, TuSimple and Navistar called off their autonomous partnership. The company also underwent a leadership change after then-CEO Xiaodi Hou was fired in October after allegations the company was being investigated by the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commission on Foreign Investment about its ties with Hydron, an autonomous startup founded by TuSimple co-founder Mo Chen last year. Cheng Lu, who led the company as CEO from September 2020 through March 2022, returned to the role in November.

[Related: California reconsidering its unfriendly autonomous trucking regs?]

CFI driver named Highway Angel of the Year

Zach Yeakley, a truck driver with Joplin, Missouri-based CFI,  has been named the 2022 Highway Angel of the Year by the Truckload Carriers Association and its presenting sponsor, EpicVue. 

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Yeakley, from Batesville, Arkansas, was formally recognized during TCA’s Annual Convention, Truckload 2023: Orlando, held at the Gaylord Palms Resort, after being selected through a public vote.

On March 17, 2022, around 8:15 a.m., Yeakley was hauling to West Memphis, Arkansas, and had just crossed the state border into Charleston, Missouri. He heard on his CB that there was an accident up ahead, and then he noticed smoke and a man wearing a safety vest flagging down drivers to alert them to the accident.

The scene was a fire-filled, chain-reaction crash in dense fog that involved more than 45 vehicles. Yeakley immediately pulled over and jumped into action.

“I went up there; they already had a couple people out,” he said. “Some people had some broken arms, one had a collapsed lung, a few broken ribs from the impact.”

Yeakley, a 15-year member of the Army National Guard, is trained as a combat lifesaver and could quickly assess the severity of the scene. He surveyed the situation so he could tell the paramedics when they arrived. Fire was spreading in the crashed vehicles, and tires were exploding all around them, due to the fire.

“There was one guy trapped in his truck,” he said. “So me, a sheriff, a state trooper, and a FedEx driver, we did what we could to get him out.”

Yeakley and the group were able to pry the dashboard off of another trapped crash victim and rescue him from his vehicle. The flames, he said, were surrounding them. Once the crash victim was rescued from his truck, Yeakley and a sheriff ran back to the scene to try to rescue the driver of a car trapped between a truck and a trailer, also surrounded by flames.

In total that day, Yeakley helped rescue six crash victims from several vehicles. Police reported at least six fatalities from the fiery crash. Yeakley, who has been driving a truck for four years, said he wouldn’t hesitate to jump back into the fire again to rescue drivers, crediting his military training for preparing him for the experience.

“Thank you for your selfless act of courage that morning,” said EpicVue CEO Lance Platt after presenting Zach with a personalized crystal truck.

Yeakley will receive a complimentary EpicVue satellite TV package that includes a 24-inch flatscreen TV, a DVR, and a one-year subscription to over 100 channels of DirecTV programming, including premium channels such as HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and more.

TCA drivers of the year announced

The Truckload Carriers Association named five winners in its 2023 TCA Professional Drivers of the Year program. The winners were chosen from nominees of TCA-member fleets that included company drivers, independent contractors and driver trainers.

This year’s winners are:

  • Richard Boehrer, Knight Refrigerated
  • Daniel Clark, Classic Carriers
  • Emily Plummer, Prime Inc.
  • Rose Rojo, John Christner Trucking
  • Thomas Sholar, Maverick Transportation

Winners were awarded $20,000 each. They were selected based on commitment to safety, contributions to their own organizations and leadership on and off the road.

The TCA Drivers of the Year program is sponsored by Cummins and Love’s Travel Stops. For more information on each winner and their individual stories, click here.   

[Related: Enter Overdrive's 2023 Trucker of the Year competition]

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