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Michigan Man Killed by Epileptic Trucker Driving Dangerous Out-of-Service Gravel Truck

September 5, 2008 by Steven M. Gursten

In late July, Michigan was listed among the top 12 most sanctioned states in the nation that allow truck drivers with serious medical problems, including seizure disorders, to drive large tractor-trailers on the roads and that fail to require truck drivers to carry valid medical certificates. Clearly, Michigan is destined to have more truck accidents due to this sad fact.

Two days after the news, I took the deposition of Charles Dreyer, a truck driver that killed a man who was a loving husband and father of two beautiful daughters. I represent the estate. Mr. Dreyer admitted he had received no formal training or supervision from his trucking employer, Utica Transit Mix and Supply and T.V.K. Trucking, Inc. in Macomb County, Mich. Mr. Dreyer testified that he has a seizure disorder and takes Tegretol, a powerful epilepsy medication that causes drowsiness and delayed reaction time. This fact alone would automatically bar him from any interstate truck driving. Regardless, he drove a fully-loaded, 150,000-pound gravel truck with two trailers in dangerous, out-of-service condition.

Mr. Dreyer was speeding and he was in the left center lane of I-75 (two additional violations of Michigan law) when the truck’s left front steer tire blew. The tire would probably not have blown if Mr. Dreyer had inspected it, as he is also required to do by law, but he admitted he didn’t inspect his brakes or tires.

The tire blow-out caused Mr. Dreyer to lose control of his truck. The truck then swerved into a car that was traveling in the lane beside him, trapping the driver against the median wall, crushing and killing him. The deceased victim of the truck accident was a young engineer in the prime of his life. His wife and two little daughters desperately miss him.

This Fatal Truck Crash Never Should have Happened

Trucks are not supposed to dangerously lose control when they experience a tire blow-out, which is a foreseeable event. The car accident attorneys at Michigan Auto Law know this because we see tire remnants along the shoulder of roads all the time — but we do not see trucks veering wildly, smashing into passenger cars and causing death and destruction every time a tire fails.

But this truck was different.

Again, when his tire blew, Mr. Dreyer lost control because his truck was in defective and dangerous mechanical condition. The truck was not maintained and not inspected.

Truckers with Dangerous Medical Conditions Driving in Michigan

Unfortunately, this stomach-turning scenario is all too common on Michigan’s roads. In fact, truckers violating federal medical rules, like Mr. Dreyer did, have been caught in every state, according to a review by the Associated Press of 7.3 million commercial driver violations compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2006, which is the latest data available.

Even worse, Michigan was among the top 12 states sanctioned most frequently for breaking medical safety rules for truck drivers, such as failing to require truckers to carry a valid medical certificate. These 12 states including Michigan, account for half of all such violations in the country, the report said. Additionally, close to 600,000 commercial truck drivers with dangerous medical conditions who qualify for full federal disability payments are still on the roads driving tractor-trailers, said a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office study.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press article noted that the agency responsible for punishing unfit truck drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, acknowledges it hasn’t completed any of eight recommendations that safety regulators have been proposing for nearly a decade.

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10 Replies to “Michigan Man Killed by Epileptic Trucker Driving Dangerous Out-of-Service Gravel Truck”

  1. Because you are out to make a buck,let’s get the facts correct.I operate a gravel train and if the “steer tire” blows out,you have no controll with 150,000 lbs. pushing down on you.Depending on the way the tire blows,Inside or outside sidewall,the truck will move in the opposite direction.If the tire blows even ,you have a better chance of controlling the truck.And for the third lane violation.The right lane just started,turning this from three lanes to four lanes.The truck has a legal right to obtain that lane until he/she can saftly move over within one mile.I read your letter and I find it full of uncorrect facts. I am not saying that the driver was in the right,or that the fact of the deceast will never see his family grow.I find it very sad. But when I read the garbage that you print for the public to view,It upsets me.Your job is to collect money off other peoples misfortune,Which I understand.But the next time sombody risks their life by cutting me off,or doing somthing life threatning,I will think of the garbage that you fuel them with.

  2. While I respect all opinions, it is obvious you work for either TVK Trucking, Utica Transit Mix, or the law firm or insurance company involved in this case. Otherwise, how could you know where on I-75 in Detroit this accident took place, as you indicate the lane changes from four to three, which is still a negligence per se violation of Michigan law, by the way. Also, while I will publish your opinion about the cause of the tire blow-out, I respectfully disagree, as presumably did the lawyers, adjusters, and experts of your employer. My experience is that insurance companies do not voluntarily pay millions of dollars unless they absolutely have to. Finally, I note you completely ignore that this truck never should have been on the road in the first place: The 160,000 pound gravel hauler had five out-of-service violations and an unfit driver with a seizure disorder. I will say again that tire blowouts, even left front-steer tire blowouts, are a forseeable and predictable event, as anyone driving down the road will see tire remnants along the roadway. A tire blowout on a properly maintained vehicle operates much like a bicycle in heavy sand. In other words, it does not careen wildly causing death and carnage to all who may be alongside or in its path. This case is, and remains, a sad example of the need for better enforcement and greater care among trucking companies for public safety.

  3. There are many companies out there that run their trucks at the edge of being illegal, many put their drivers at risk for the money that has become harder to make in this industy. Many laws go unchecked, tires and brakes are under great stress with the loads that Michigan allows on it’s highways, and with 42 tires to check some drivers may not check all, it just takes one to kill someone, but there are good drivers out there that know this and drive their trucks responsibily. they pretrip their trucks and get what they can fixed but the owners are the ones who decide if it gets fixed or not. I drive train and have never lost a steer, I have had load tires go and that is what you mostly see on the highways, tires are generaly lost due to improper inflation which leads to excessive heat, most tires are recaps (load tires) due to cost of virgin tires. If drivers reject the trucks due to defects some of these companies will just get another driver which is why we have alot of inexperienced drivers out there in these trucks. DOT is out there doing what it can but they can’t find everyone. If you drive a train in Michigan you should be licensed for it, there is a lot more to it then just driving a truck with a doubles indorsement, wake up Lansing.

  4. Do you think people who have epilepsy and have had multiple accidents and driver’s license suspensions should be given their licenses back?

    Should parent’s who have epilepsy, and have had accidents be allowed to drive with their children?

  5. Frances, in answer to your question, drivers with seizures, who have already caused multiple car accidents and have already had license suspensions, I cannot even fathom any reason why they should be given their license back until they can prove that the seizures are controlled and pose no danger whatsoever to the public. Please note by law the State of Michigan restricts licenses after a seizure for at least 6 months. Also, if your question goes to someone who has been hired to drive for a corporation or trucking company, then the answer is absolutely not. There are many well-qualified truck drivers out there with excellent records and no disabling medical conditions. No trucking company should be hiring a driver with a seizure disorder who has caused multiple accidents and has multiple restrictions on his or her license. That is the basis of Michigan’s common law cause of action for negligent entrustment – a corporation entrusting a vehicle to an obviously unfit driver.

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