Trash Hauler's Record Probed in Md. Derailment

A trash hauler whose truck was involved in the explosive derailment of a CSX freight train has a poor safety record, a federal safety board said Thursday about the investigation into the crash and fire that caused $625,000 worth of damage to the train and tracks and an untold amount to nearby businesses and homes.

Separately, Maryland State Police said they have begun a thorough review of Alban Waste LLC's compliance with U.S. Transportation Department safety regulations at the National Transportation Safety Board's request.

As cleanup crews and investigators worked at the crash site in the eastern Baltimore suburbs, NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt gave what he said was the agency's last local news conference on the Tuesday derailment. He said the agency has looked at federal transportation department safety records for Alban Waste and found an above-average number of violations resulting in trucks being ordered off the road.

Records of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Agency show the company that has three trucks was involved in two crashes with injuries in 2012 and 2013. The agency's website also shows the company's vehicles were inspected 43 times in the last two years, with trucks being ordered out of service in about 40 percent of those cases. The national average is about half that.

The 45-car CSX train crashed into the trash truck driven by company owner John J. Alban Jr. Sumwalt had said investigators planned to interview Alban, who remained in serious condition Thursday at a hospital. His was the only injury in the derailment, explosion and fire that sent a plume of black and gray smoke into the air that could be seen for miles.

CSX Transportation pointed to a hazardous chemical in a rail car as the source of the explosion that rattled homes miles away. A company spokesman said officials still weren't sure what caused the sodium chlorate to explode, but it ignited another chemical in a second car.

A new video of the crash, captured by a nearby business's surveillance camera, shows Alban's truck approaching the crossing before the train is in sight, driving away from his business. Without stopping, the truck heads across the tracks as the train approaches. The truck appears to get mostly across before the lead CSX locomotive slams into it. The impact wraps the truck's white cab and a portion of its trailer around the side of the train, and the train drags the wreckage forward. The video appeared first on the Baltimore News Journal website.

Sumwalt said the video was helpful to investigators.

He said the train was going 49 mph, just below the speed limit of 50 mph on that track section.

Other Motor Carrier Safety Agency records obtained by The Associated Press show Alban Waste failed a safety audit in November 2011 due to file-keeping problems regarding drivers' qualifications, a random drug and alcohol testing program and maintenance reports. The company notified the agency in March 2012 of its actions to correct those problems. Other federal records show violations over the last two years including brake and light problems to tire and seat belt violations.

Sumwalt said investigators have obtained blood samples from Alban Jr. for routine drug and alcohol testing. The Associated Press unsuccessfully tried Thursday to reach Alban's company and relatives by phone and knocking on doors.

State business records show that Alban Jr. owns the small Baltimore-based trash hauler, which has operated as Alban Waste since 2011 and as Reliable Waste Services before that.

Capt. Norman Dofflemyer, commander of the Maryland State Police Commercial Motor Vehicles Division, said the agency has asked his office to help review the company's compliance with federal regulations. He said that even before the crash, ``they were approaching a threshold that would have triggered a notice that we should start looking at the company through the compliance program.''

The company is located a short distance from the crossing where the collision occurred. The road to the business crosses the railroad tracks, separating Alban Waste from the rest of an industrial neighborhood off Interstate 95.

Alban Jr. was ticketed May 25 in Baltimore County for failing to properly secure a roll-on container to his truck and convicted earlier on the same charge. He is awaiting trial July 19 on a speeding ticket. His license was suspended for about a month on March 25 after he failed to either pay the fine or ask for a court date. When he requested a court date April 23, the suspension was lifted. Alban was convicted of using a handheld cellphone while driving in June 2011 in the city of Baltimore.

Sumwalt said the NTSB will review cellphone records as a routine part of the investigation.

The crash clean-up and investigation work blocked access to the business and a call to the company wasn't returned. Nobody came to the door of Alban's split-level home in a leafy neighborhood in Essex, a working-class community near the Back River. A woman who answered the phone at that address hung up.

Sumwalt said the crash and explosion caused damage estimated at $505,000 to the train and $120,000 to the tracks.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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