Arizona officials investigating the deadly August 1 crash of an asphalt oil truck in North Phoenix said that driver fatigue was to blame, and a whistleblower has bolstered those findings with claims that Cactus Transport forces its drivers to work dangerously long driving shifts without a break.
Witnesses told investigators that they noticed the oil tanker swerving in the southbound lanes on Interstate 17 just before 5 a.m. The truck then ran onto the median, struck a sign post, and rolled over. The driver of the truck was killed. No other vehicles were involved, but the crash ruptured the tank hold, spilling 307-degree asphalt oil on the highway and shoulder and causing traffic snarls and long detours for motorists approaching Phoenix from the north.
A Cactus Transport employee and coworker of the driver killed told Phoenix’s 3TV that having fatigued drivers hauling explosive substances is a recipe for disaster.
“The first thing that went through my mind was it was bound to happen. It was coming any day,” the whistleblower, identified by 3TV only as Robert, told the station, describing how he was pressured to work beyond the number of maximum hours as soon as he started working for the Cactus Transport two months ago.
“The hours that they give these guys, they don’t give them rest time,” Robert told 3TV. “They want them to stop one job, get ready to go to the next and work all that day without any kind of breaks or rests.”
Federal hours-of-service (HOS) laws administered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limit the number of hours drivers can spend behind the wheel and mandate periods of rest. These hours must be recorded by the driver in an hours-of-service log.
Robert told 3TV that many Cactus Transport drivers work 80-hour weeks and falsify their books, keeping one hours-of-service log to show authorities during inspections and another one they submit to the company so they can be paid for the real number of hours they work.
TV3 looked up Cactus Transport records in the FMCSA database and found that the company has had 15 hours-of-service violations in the past two years and still it is allowed to operate fuel tankers, elevating the risk of injury and death for the driving public. In one citation, “Cactus Transport was caught requiring drivers to stay on the road longer than 14 hours,” TV3 reported.
Robert told TV3 he gave Cactus Transport his notice.
“I just don’t want to see any more of my colleagues hurt,” he told TV3. “This industry, there seems to be more and more people getting hurt because they are overworked.”