Truck company in fatal school bus crash fined over drug/alcohol testing
PARAMUS — The company that owns the dump truck that collided Thursday morning with a school bus, killing a child and middle school teacher, has a troubled history of crashes and failed inspections, federal records show.
The Paramus school district’s bus fleet, meanwhile, also had six buses that failed safety inspections in December, state records show.
In 2016, Belleville-based Mendez Trucking paid federal regulators $16,840 for failing to test drivers for drug and alcohol use after accidents. The company also paid more than $6,000 for failing to have all vehicle parts and accessories in safe and working order.
The district’s fleet, meanwhile, had two buses pulled from service in December while four more failed safety inspections that resulted in 30-day deadlines to meet compliance. One of the buses pulled from service did not have proper lettering and instructions on its emergency exit and roof escape hatch — which, on the bus that crashed Thursday, were used to rescue victims.
State Police, which is investigating the crash, did not know Thursday who was at fault or what caused the crash between the dump truck and the school bus on Route 80.
The bus of fifth-graders from East Brook Middle School was one of three heading on a class trip to Waterloo Village in nearby Byram Township.
The crash happened about 10:21 a.m. in the westbound lanes near Exit 25.
The crash left the bus’ cabin shared from its undercarriage. The part of the bus carrying passengers came to rest on its side on the guardrail. Passengers were pulled from windows, emergency exits and a roof hatch.
There were 38 students and seven adults hospitalized, and some remain in critical condition. The names of the dead student and teacher were not released Thursday afternoon.
Records kept by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration show that more than half of the Mendez Trucking inspections in the last two years have resulted in violations. The company has an out-of-service rate of 37.9 percent, higher than the national average of 20.7 percent.
The company has been involved in eight crashes in the past two years, including two last May and one in August. The FMCSA’s online database does not include details about the crashes or say if the company’s drivers were at fault.
Recent unsafe driving violations include four for blowing red lights, three for speeding 11 to 14 miles over the limit, two for speeding 6 to 10 miles over the limit, and five for lane violations.
The data reveals two recent driver fitness violations: one for driving without a license and another for not knowing English.
None of the company’s drivers have tested positive for drugs and alcohol in the past three years.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.