Coal Tattoo

About those coal trucks that made all that noise …

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Photo by Antrim Caskey

During Monday’s big dueling mountaintop removal demonstrations here in Charleston, a couple of coal truck drivers spent a lot of time circling the block, blaring their horns to try to drown out speeches by environmentalists they disagree with.

If you look very closely at the photo above of one of those trucks, you’ll see its from a company called Medford Trucking. When I saw that name, I knew I had heard it before … and here’s why:

Back on Feb.6, one of Medford’s workers, 70-year-old William Wade of Charleston, was killed when he lost control of his truck on the downhill portion of the Cabin Creek haulroad at Massey Energy’s Republic Energy Surface Mine along the Kanawha-Fayette County line.

After the death, both state and federal investigators cited Medford for workplace safety violations they said caused or contributed to Wade’s death.

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As Coal Tattoo previously reported, the West Virginia Office of Miners Health Safety and Training concluded that:

Medford Trucking was not doing pre-shift safety checks of the truck, and the truck’s service brake air supply reservoir “had been purposely bypassed, therefore reducing the volume of air available for braking,” state investigators found. Also, investigators found that four of six brake drums were worn beyond the manufacturer’s wear limits.

According to that state report:

Shortly before 9 a.m., Wade began driving down the grade and passed an empty coal truck. The driver of that truck said Wade appeared to be in full control of his vehicle when the two passed. But as the other driver continued up the hill, he heard Wade on the CB radio saying he was “having problems with his truck.” Then, Wade radioed that he “was losing his engine and having brake problems.”

Wade then told another driver who was just starting up the hill in the other direction to “get out of the way,” according to one witness. Another witness saw Wade’s truck go to the left side of the road and “abruptly climb approximately 16 feet up the steep embankment beside the roadway and overturn,” according to the state report. Coworkers discovered Wade pinned beneath the truck’s cab. The truck was lifted off him, and he was taken to a Charleston hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:38 a.m.

In a separate report, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration concluded:

This accident occurred because (1) the trailer brakes failed to operate effectively, (2) the contractor failed to provide an effective safety program for the pre-shift inspection to identify unsafe conditions, and (3) the victim had not received new miner training. 

MSHA cited Medford with four violations concerning the unsafe condition of the truck, the lack of proper training, and an inadequate pre-shift examination of the truck. Among other things, MSHA’s report said:

When tested, all six of the trailer service brakes were not effective due to over stroke or defective brake chambers. Four of the six brake drums on the trailer were measured to be worn beyond the wear limits recommended by the drum manufacturer. 

And:

An adequate pre-shift inspection was not performed on the Kenworth Coal Truck, Company Number 21, operating on the mine property, prior to placing the truck into operation. An adequate inspection would have revealed that six trailer brakes were ineffective.