School bus crash sparks shipping company scrutiny

The Florida Highway Patrol’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (CVE) unit is investigating the company operating the tractor-trailer that slammed into a Levy County school bus on Wednesday, sending five children to the hospital.

“We had CVE troopers go down to this crash, so they were involved in the totality of the investigation,” FHP spokesman Pat Riordan told Mainstreet Daily News in a phone interview.

CVE’s involvement means the initial crash report, due within 10 days of the accident, will include findings on the truck and carrier company, Denmark Cargo Solution LLC.

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“Based on what we have right now, the carrier has operating authority to carry the property,” said Sgt. Denise Meredith, who works in FHP’s CVE training unit. “The driver was qualified to drive the truck at the time of the crash.”

FHP has not released the name of the 34-year-old Seffner man who failed to stop on US Highway 19 for a school bus that was unloading students with its lights flashing. First responders transported five children to UF Health Shands, where two were listed in serious condition.

The truck’s trailer was empty at the time of the accident, indicating weight was not a factor, but it appeared to be traveling at a significant rate of speed given the damage to both the tractor-trailer and the school bus.

Levy County school bus crash

“They’re going to go back and look at the loads he dropped off and see who he was carrying for,” Meredith said. “There are several different ways of verifying that information.”

When reached by phone, a Denmark fleet manager who would only identify himself as John, said the accident is under investigation and directed all inquiries to either “the insurance company or our lawyer.” When Mainstreet asked who the company’s lawyer is, the man hung up the phone.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Denmark is based in Merrillville, Indiana, and gained its operating authority on Jan. 14, 2020. FMCSA records show Denmark has the required minimum of $750,000 insurance coverage for bodily injury and property damage.

The company operates 29 trucks and has 36 drivers, according to FMCSA. Records show that in the last 24 months Denmark has had 22.9 percent of its trucks taken out of service—slightly above the national average—and 10.6 percent of its drivers taken out of service—almost twice the national average, according to FMCSA.

In a phone interview shipping broker Laszlo Almasi, president of Lurch Logistics, said drivers can be taken out of service for issues ranging from driving too many hours to drugs and alcohol.

FMCSA records show that Denmark has been cited for 41 violations over 60 inspections in the last 24 months. Some of the infractions were minor, but 19 had a severity weight of 5 or higher on a 1-10 scale. Nine of the citations were for unsafe driving and one was for driver fitness.

FHP’s Meredith said that number of citations is not necessarily high for a company of Denmark’s size.

Almasi, who has been in the shipping business for eight years, said he thinks the record indicates Denmark could be on the pathway to an unfavorable rating from the FMCSA.

“Given the history, in my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before Denmark gets a conditional safety rating,” Almasi said.

The Levy County accident has drawn interest among those who follow the trucking industry. A story posted to CDLLife.com’s Facebook page sparked more than 700 reactions, more than 300 comments and almost 200 shares in just over 24 hours.

Some of the commenters zeroed in on the logo on the truck’s trailer: Super Ego Holding, a transportation company based in Illinois.

“The name on the side of the truck says it all. Super Ego,” wrote user Clinton Kirker. 

“[I] have had several encounters with their now famous drivers,” wrote Chris Hopp.

As of Friday afternoon, Meredith said Super Ego is not under investigation and the trailer’s owner is largely irrelevant. She said troopers remain focused on the truck owner, Denmark Cargo Solution.

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