State police say company driver was over hours before fatal wreck

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 3/2/2007

Rhode Island State Police investigating a fatal crash say the trucker involved was past his HOS limit. They have turned the case over to the FMCSA for further review.

The Feb. 6 wreck at the junction of Interstates 195 and 95 in Providence, RI, occurred when a four-wheeler cut in front of a tractor-trailer hauling a load of scrap metal, according to statements by 59-year-old Raymond Green, who was driving the rig for L&H Trucking of Hanover, PA.

The Providence Journal reported that Green told investigators that the four-wheeler forced him to swerve, causing his tractor and trailer to fall over. The load of scrap aluminum fell onto a sedan driven by Joyce St. Laurent, who died as a result, the Journal reported.

Rhode Island State Police Lt. Glenn Skalubinski supervised the wreck scene on Feb. 6 and told Land Line that his agency's commercial vehicle enforcement unit determined Green had violated federal hours-of-service regulations. But, Skalubinski said he didn't know the total number of hours Green had driven.

"At that point the investigation was turned over to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration," Skalubinski said.

Duane DeBruyne, a spokesman for FMCSA, confirmed Friday, March 2, that the agency is performing a compliance review of L&H Trucking.

"It's almost automatic when there's a crash of that severity we'll do an investigation," DeBruyne told Land Line Magazine.

DeBruyne wouldn't comment specifically on FMCSA's investigation of L&H Trucking but did say that compliance reviews generally are a comprehensive audit of a carrier's compliance with all federal laws including insurance, alcohol and drug testing, vehicle maintenance records and hours of service.

Land Line checked L&H's safety record on the FMCSA's SafeStat carrier overview and found the company showing good scores in the areas of driver and vehicle safety.

However, a former co-worker of Green's told Land Line the company was in the practice of falsifying hours-of-service documents.

Tony Hippensteel said he worked for L&H Trucking for five years before quitting in November 2006. He told Land Line on Thursday, March 1, that the company began pushing truckers past their limits when Glenn Longstreth took over as CEO from his parents, L&H Trucking founders Larry and Helen Longstreth.

Under Glenn Longstreth's leadership, Hippensteel said drivers were sent on routes they couldn't possibly deliver on-time without breaking hour-of-service regs.

According to Hippensteel, after Glenn Longstreth took over, drivers would clock in at the beginning of the day and the company would manually sign them out when the drivers hit hours-of-service limits for the day, though drivers continued working. The company would then "bank" the time and pay drivers for a day they didn't work, Hippensteel told Land Line.

"Then they had bonuses set up where if you were late on a load they didn't give you a performance bonus," Hippensteel said.

A receptionist at L&H Trucking said Glenn Longstreth wasn't in the office Thursday and Larry Longstreth was out of town.

A longtime Land Line reader, Hippensteel said he quit working for L&H Trucking because the company was increasingly pushing truckers to violate hours-of-service rules.

"Mr. Green - I'm good friends with him," Hippensteel said. "When I heard about the accident the very first thing that popped in my mind was, 'I hope he wasn't driving over hours,' because I know how common that is."

Hippensteel said he contacted FMCSA in 2006 to warn them about the company's hours-of-service problems, but was frustrated when he was told they needed specific times and dates of violations. The company's long-haul trucks are equipped with Qualcomm log systems, Hippensteel said.

"An individual had to die before they would take action," Hippensteel said. "I said 'You can go any day of the week and look at the clock and the handwritten (clock out) time and I guarantee there is a violation.' "

One company official, however, disagreed with Hippensteel's allegations.

"Absolutely not true," said Larry Moul, L&H's director of safety, told the Providence Journal. "When you run out of time you park the truck and take the break. Those are DOT rules."

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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