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Details emerge from Nevada Amtrak crash

Six people were killed on Sunday when a big-rig truck struck an Amtrak passenger train at 11:25 a.m. on Friday at a crossing 70 miles east of Reno, Nev...

Freddie Pierce
|Jun 27|magazine6 min read

Six people were killed on Sunday when a big-rig truck struck an Amtrak passenger train at 11:25 a.m. on Friday at a crossing 70 miles east of Reno, Nev.

Details are starting to emerge from the tragedy. Among those are numerous reports that the truck involved in the crash was part of John Davis Trucking, a company that had been cited for 17 maintenance violations in the last two years.

Four of the 17 violations stemmed from braking problems while two other citations were for worn tires.

The driver apparently hit his brakes 320 feet from the site of the collision, which killed the truck’s driver and five passengers on the Amtrak California Zephyr train.

Two other truck drivers, who were part of the three-truck convoy, witnessed the crash, as the semitrailer reportedly skidded helplessly for over 100 yards before smashing through the crossing gates into the train.

Twenty people in all were taken to local hospitals for treatment.

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Adding to rising scrutiny, the National Transportation Safety Board on Sunday said that John Davis Trucking company had been involved in 19 random roadside inspections since 2010.

The random inspections led to seven violations and a truck being taken out of service. Authorities found tires on one company big-rig so bald that they deemed the rig “an imminent hazard to public safety” in a January inspection.

"The NTSB plans to visit the company this week," National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said. "At that time, we will be reviewing not only company records but the driver's records."

Federal records show that the Nevada Department of Public Safety had cited John Davis Trucking for two crashes over the last two years.

While details from the Amtrak crash are still pouring out of news outlets across the country, trucking companies should take heed of the public fallout from John Davis Trucking. Keeping big-rigs and trailers tuned to the best possible condition is the best defense to such transgressions, and can help save lives.