Trucks at Work

Policing Our Own

You may remember the story back on April 29 -- one retold in this space -- about tanker truck driver James Mosqueda's accident on I-580 south of San Francisco, where he took a ramp exit too fast, flipped his truck over, watched his gasoline tanker explode into flame, and then literally melt an entire section of that elevated roadway into glowing debris.

Well, Mosqueda's company, Sabek Trucking of South San Francisco, just got its license to haul gasoline suspended by the California Highway Patrol this week after a CHP inspection found 36 safety violations -- and this is the first such suspension CHP has imposed on a hazmat trucking firm since 1992, according to the Tri-Valley Herald newspaper (which has done a stupendous job reporting this story, I might add.)

Apparently, however, Sabek has a bad safety reputation for some time, the Herald found: For example, law enforcement cited the truck Mosqueda drove that day 27 times for safety violations in the past 2 1/2 years. And though Mosqueda had a clean record, he'd only been driving tankers for 10 months before he wrecked: That could indicate a big gap in his driver training.

The suspension was based on a May 16 inspection of Sabek's terminal in King City, CA, which found defective brakes and loose wheel lug nuts on two of three tanker trucks and three tanker trailers. In the past year, three of every four Sabek trucks rolling into state roadside inspection station have been ordered off the road for serious safety violations. The Tri-Valley Herald reported that CHP Commissioner Mike Brown told the company in a letter : "It is evident that your company does not have adequate safety measures in place to ensure the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles used for the transportation of hazardous materials."

Talk about an understatement! Defective brakes on a TANKER loaded with GASOLINE?

Though the melted ramp has been rebuilt -- in 25 days, no less -- I don't think we can let this incident pass from our minds as quick as it will disappear from the general public's conciousness. Look, word passes fast down the trucking grapevine and I am more than certain drivers and managers within the trucking community knew Sabek had issues -- and when you haul GASOLINE, the one thing a fleet CANNOT have is ISSUES, especially SAFETY issues.

There has got to be some way for the trucking industry as a whole to police its own -- we can't just palm that off on law enforcement. Sure, it's their job to get the bad drivers and companies off the roads -- but WE can do more. And we need to do more -- an accident like Mosqueda's fireball isn't just an image issue; people could have been killed in large numbers, much less Mosqueda himself. If a carrier or driver has a problem, there's got to be a way for the industry to step in and help -- before a terrible tragedy occurs on the roadway.

It's also important to recognize, too, that most fleets out there -- but especially the hazmat folks -- are doing it right every day. And give kudos for the Tri-Valley Herald for reporting that in their coverage: "The fact that no trucking concern had ever lost its ability to carry hazardous materials speaks highly of the safety record for those (trucking companies) that are out there," Capt. Rob Patrick, commander of the CHP's commercial vehicle section, told the paper.

You can't ask for higher praise than that.