NTSB eyes truck owner, weather in crash inquiry

The trucking company whose tractor-trailer crashed into an Interstate 95 median Friday morning, initiating the accident that left four Yale students dead, has a deficient accident safety rating, federal data shows.

The Arrow Trucking Company has been involved in more accidents than nearly 80 percent of all other carriers for which data is available, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMSCA — a regulatory branch within the U. S. Department of Transportation responsible for ensuring the safety of commercial carriers — considers any percentage over 75 to be deficient.

The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating Arrow Trucking’s safety history and its implications for the investigation into Friday’s accident. The chief NTSB investigator assigned to the accident will provide an overview of the team’s findings at a press conference this afternoon in Bridgeport.

“We’ll look at the company and how it is managed,” NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said. He added that investigators would also look into whether driver fatigue was a factor in the accident.

Data on driver safety evaluation ratings and vehicle safety evaluation ratings, however were both below 75 percent. According to FMCSA data, Arrow Trucking was involved in four other fatal crashes in the past two years.

Arrow Trucking is based in Tulsa, Okla., and operates 1,284 power units with 1,221 drivers, according to FMCSA data. In 2001, Arrow freightliners drove nearly 120 million miles.

Officials at Arrow Trucking refuted the FMCSA data, calling it outdated and inaccurate.

“Those statistics have been subject to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation as to their validity and accuracy,” Arrow Trucking Executive Vice President Joseph Mowry said. “They [the FMCSA] didn’t have current miles traveled and accidents.”

A statement released by Arrow said the FMSCA’s practices and methodologies are also currently under investigation by the Inspector General.

Mowry said the FMCSA arrived at a better accident rating yesterday after incorporating more current data.

“When the FMCSA put in current miles driven and accidents from the last 12 months, the number lowered from 79.3 to 13.0,” Mowry said. Mowry also said that Arrow Trucking has received the highest rating given to motor carriers by the U.S. DOT and has earned numerous safety awards.

“It is regrettable that in these tragic times, inaccurate and misquoted information was used before being verified,” Mowry said. “Arrow will continue to keep the families involved in this matter in its prayers and will await further clarification on the details of this accident from the proper authorities.”

The accident on I-95, in which a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe crashed into an Arrow freightliner, claimed the lives of four of the nine Yale students in the vehicle. Kyle Burnat ’05, Andrew Dwyer ’05 and Sean Fenton ’04 were pronounced dead at the scene, and Nicholas Grass ’05 died Saturday at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport.

Eric Wenzel ’03 was last reported Thursday evening to be in critical condition at Bridgeport Hospital. Brett Smith ’06 remained in serious condition Thursday evening in Norwalk Hospital’s intensive care unit. Chris Gary ’06 and Cameron Fine ’06 were released from Undergraduate Health Services Wednesday.

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