JZ Trucking fined for deaths resulting from background check failure

| 9/24/2003

The deaths of three people who were killed June 23 when a 34-ton mining machine fell from a truck might have been prevented if the truck driver's employer had done a background check before hiring him, a federal report said.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration fined JZ Trucking $11,160 for violating federal motor carrier regulations. Investigators concluded in a report obtained by the Appalachian News-Express of Pikeville, KY, that the crash might not have occurred if JZ Trucking complied with federal regulations that require drug screenings and background checks for drivers.

Three people died when an auger fell from the back of a truck driven by David Williams, 38.

Williams was driving south on U.S. 23 in Pikeville. The auger struck two vehicles in the northbound lanes.

Williams has been indicted on three counts of murder. Tests reportedly showed he had traces of several drugs in his system. A Pike County grand jury did not return indictments against the trucking company or its owner, The Associated Press reported.

Michael de Bourbon, a Pikeville attorney representing the company, said neither the findings nor the fines would be contested. De Bourbon said JZ Trucking gave Williams a chance by hiring him, and that it is impossible to know whether a more thorough background check could have prevented the deaths.

JZ Trucking was cited for not requesting information from Williams' previous employers.

"This driver had numerous violations and crashes on his driving record," the inspectors said. They said if the company had checked Williams' record, "he may never have been hired, and this crash would not have occurred."

Williams had been arrested on drunken driving charges twice and had several traffic charges on his record before JZ Trucking hired him.

Federal investigators also cited JZ Trucking for failing to maintain records of inquiries into employee driving records, failing to require a driver to make a duty record and failing to require a driver to prepare a vehicle inspection report.