by Jack Swint
The WV Miners Health & Safety Division and the U.S. Department of Mine Safety and Health Administration have ruled that negligence on the part of Medford Trucking LLC of Charleston WV, caused the death of two truck drivers while hauling coal in 2009 and 2010. Both accidents were almost identical and occurred on the same road while hauling for the same coal company. According to official reports linked below, the tragic deaths of William D. Wade and Charles R. Qualls could have been avoided if not for the negligent maintenance practices of Medford Trucking.
Now, an employee at Medford Trucking says more accidents are inevitable since corrective action taken against the company is not being monitored or enforced by state and or federal inspectors. “Things are back to the way they were when the accidents occurred, and before long, other drivers will be injured or killed.”
William D. Wade
According to investigators, on February 6, 2009 at approximately 8:15a.m., sixteen year veteran driver William D. Wade's truck was loaded with coal at the Chilton Rider Pit, he then proceeded driving down the Cabin Creek Haulage Road. Witnesses state that Wade was on the CB saying he was losing his engine and air pressure to the trucks braking system. His truck was seen going out of control and abruptly climbing approximately 16 feet up the steep embankment beside the roadway and then overturn. Wade was pronounced dead at Charleston Area Medical Center.
Findings Of Fact: According to investigators, 5 of the 6 brakes were not functioning properly. They also found 4 of the 6 brake drums were "worn beyond the maximum wear limits." And, 4 of the 6 brake chambers were "past the manufacturers recommended maximum stroke at which the brakes should be re-adjusted. In addition, 1 of the brakes had not been functioning prior to the accident. Also, Wade was not wearing his seat-belt at the time of the accident.
Conclusion: The air brake system was not maintained in safe operating condition. WV Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training issued 6 notice of violations related to maintenance, inspections and air brake systems.
Charles R. Qualls
On December 4th, 2010 ten year veteran driver Charles R. Qualls drove his truck to the Lower Coalburg Stockpile and was loaded with coal at approximately 4:45pm. Due to the roads being snow-covered, he waited an hour for the maintenance crew to clear them. Another Medford Truck driver witnessed Qualls performing the required tractor-trailer brake system inspection before attempting to travel down the Cabin Creek Haulage Road. Shortly after beginning downhill, witnesses reported hearing Qualls on his CB radio stating something was wrong with his trailers brakes. Qualls truck was last seen attempting to drive onto the straddle berm at the #41 marker sign but did not strike it squarely. His trucks left tires ran onto the side of the berm which resulted in the truck overturning, pinning Qualls beneath it. He died at the scene.
Finding Of Fact: According to investigators, 3 of the 6 brakes were not functioning properly. They found that 1 of the 6 brake drums was worn beyond the manufacturers maximum wear limits. They also found that 2 of the 6 brake chambers were past the manufacturers recommended stroke limit at which brakes should be readjusted. And, 1 of the brakes had not been functioning prior to the accident.
Conclusion: The air brake system was not maintained in safe operating condition. Investigators also determined Qualls, who weighed over 350 lbs. was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident. (Nor was there a "seatbelt extension" found in any of Medford's trucks.) WV Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training issued 2 notice of violations, one for the faulty air brakes and one for seat belts.
Note: A review of pre-operational examination records for the previous ten shifts before the accidents of William Wade and Charles Qualls revealed that the defects had not been detected.
No Follow Through On Corrective Action Against Medford Trucking
Due to almost identical fatalities on this same section of road, Medford Trucking was ordered to upgrade its pre-operational inspections to include a detailed list of 59 required checks including a static brake pull through test. As concluded in the February 6, 2009 investigation, if the trucking company had performed this test properly, the brake defects would have been detected beforehand. Medford's failure to maintain their trucks in safe operational condition is what caused a mismatch of drive axle brake chambers. This compromised the driver's ability to stop or control the truck.
Medford was also required to institute a twice weekly buddy check (two examiners) to verify brake operation, air system, and steering linkage and also conduct a twice monthly “idle Sunday” complete inspection of all trucks by the five Republic inspectors and four Medford mechanics. This was to ensure that the correct parts are being utilized to properly maintain the equipment and also to guarantee brake drums were inspected every time they change out brake shoes (to ensure they are within wear specs).
After the accident, all of Medford's personnel plus five Republic Energy Inspectors were given eight hours of DOT truck inspection training by MCS (Motor Carrier Solutions). The mechanics were certified in brake adjustments and as part of the training; Also, as part of the training, a 100 question test was developed for all mechanics then and in the future. Drivers were no longer allowed to drive their trucks home at night and then straight to the jobsite the next morning. They now had to first drive to Medford’s terminal and conduct a pre-maintenance inspection each workday.
Now, in April 2012, it is reported by an employee at Medford Trucking that most of the ordered changes implemented after driver Charles Qualls was killed in 2010 are no longer being done and or checked by inspectors. Some of the required forms certifying that work is being completed are just being signed off on whether the work is performed and or inspected. Mechanics are no longer tested and or re-evaluated as often as needed and the mandatory every other Sunday buddy check inspection is not routinely completed. Medford drivers are back to being allowed to take trucks home at night and then drive to the work sight the next morning instead of reporting first to the Medford terminal.
The tragic deaths of William D. Wade and Charles R. Qualls could have been avoided if Medford Trucking owners ensured proper, routine and mandatory maintenance necessary for all of their trucks. It is also clear that Medford owners knew, or should have known that at least, these two vehicles were unsafe to operate. Inspectors charged with overseeing the maintenance records of this trucking company are also responsible for Qualls death because they failed to ensure Medford adhered to the 2009 "enforcement action" after Wades identical fatal accident.
These violations included not having an effective, comprehensive, and enforced program for pre-operational inspection to identify, report, and correct unsafe conditions. Also, instructions to never operate a truck or any type equipment without wearing a seat belt. Both Wade and Qualls were not wearing seatbelts at the time of their accidents. There were 4 citations issued against Medford Trucking in 2009 for their direct negligence in Wade’s death and 5 citations in Qualls. All similar in action.
End Of Story
West Virginia News
LinkedIn: Jack Swint
State And Federal Report And Investigation In The Charles Qualls Fatality