The firm that owns the dump truck that caused a fatal pileup on the Harbor Tunnel Thruway in April has failed to keep proper maintenance records, State Police said.
Meanwhile, police have ordered another truck in the Cunningham Paving Co.'s fleet off the road for the second time in 30 days because of defective brakes.
Two inspectors visited Cunningham's Crownsville operation yesterday, a month after ordering 18 of its trucks repaired for safety violations, said State Police spokesman Chuck Jackson. During yesterday's two-hour audit, the company failed to produce documents showing that 23 of its 35 trucks had been inspected and maintained as required by state law, he said.
As a result, "We will notify the Motor Vehicle Administration and recommend that it suspend the tags for the trucks not in compliance," said Capt. John Himmelmann, commander of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, which handles the inspections.
A tag suspension "would put a crimp in [Cunningham's] day-to-day business" by taking trucks off the road, Himmelmann said.
An attorney for Cunningham, Michael R. Roblyer, said the company failed to keep records for all the trucks because it did not understand how much paperwork was actually necessary.
"They just had a complete misunderstanding of what the [required] paperwork was," he said.
Roblyer said the company plans to complete all the required records within two days.
A year-old law requires Maryland trucking companies to inspect certain vehicles every year, or every 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, and to keep records of those inspections.
Inspectors did not examine the trucks yesterday, police said, although they did conduct an unrelated random roadside check of one Cunningham truck May 21. They ordered that truck off the road for the second time in a month because of brake deficiencies, police said.
Police did not charge Cunningham with violating the first order to fix the brakes because they could not determine if the problem was the same one.
"In this case, we're not able to say if the truck was repaired and developed these problems again," Jackson said.
Inspectors told Cunningham last December to improve its maintenance recordkeeping within 30 days, but they did not return to determine if the company had complied.
Roblyer said he believed inspectors simply wanted to inform companies about the new law last December. The company has been maintaining its trucks properly, he said.
In late April, a Cunningham dump truck carrying 22 tons of asphalt bounced off a Jersey barrier near the Harbor Tunnel and triggered a chain-reaction accident involving 11 vehicles.
The truck crushed a Nissan Sentra driven by Kimberly Ann Schroeder, 23, who died. Eight other people were injured.
Authorities cited the truck for having defective brakes and for being almost 3,000 pounds overweight. The truck's driver, John Willie Buie, 58, was charged with vehicular manslaughter, speeding and other traffic offenses.
"I don't think Cunningham is convinced there was any problem with the brakes," Roblyer said, adding that he was awaiting an evaluation of the accident.
On April 30, several days after the crash, police inspectors ordered 18 Cunningham vehicles off the road for various safety problems, including some defective brakes. The deficiencies were quickly corrected and the trucks put back on the road, Roblyer said.
One truck snagged in the April 30 inspection, however, ran into trouble again May 21. Police inspected a Cunningham dump truck during a random roadside check on Md. 170 in Anne Arundel County and found brake defects that were "nearly identical" to those found in April, Jackson said. Inspectors ordered the truck out of service, as they had done a month earlier, until the brakes were fixed.
Police do not routinely reinspect trucks ordered off the road for repairs, Jackson said.
"It is up to the company to make the necessary repairs before putting it back in service. We would not go back and make a re-inspection. We rely on the good sense and trust of the trucking firm to make the repairs," Jackson said.