My home town…
FARGO – A Barnesville, Minn., truck driver who rear-ended a car and crashed into a storage building here Monday said he will likely lose his commercial driver’s license because of the accident.
John Earl Tucker’s recent driving record has a number of blemishes, including a hit-and-run crash last year in Iowa in which he rear-ended a car with his Freightliner.
But the 57-year-old driver told The Forum on Tuesday that he thinks he’s “safer than a whole lot of them out there.”
Nevertheless, Tucker – who said he has Type 2 diabetes and suffered a head injury years ago when struck by a two-by-four while working in a barn – plans to hang up his keys.
“I’m not going to try to drive anymore,” he said.
In Monday morning’s accident, Fargo police say Tucker was driving a dump truck north on 34th Street when he rear-ended a car that was turning onto Main Avenue.
The truck continued through the intersection and crashed through nine units of a storage building before stopping, while the car hit by the truck spun and struck two other cars.
No one was seriously injured. Tucker was taken to a hospital for observation and later released.
Tucker said the last thing he remembers is trying to radio a co-worker to find out where to dump his truck’s load.
He was about 100 yards from the intersection when “everything went black,” he said. The next thing he remembers is waking up in the storage building with glass from the truck’s broken windshield in front of him.
A witness told The Forum the truck didn’t appear to slow down after it rear-ended the car.
Lt. Joel Vettel said that because no skid marks were found, investigators reconstructing the crash this week will conduct a “crush study” to determine the truck’s rate of speed based on damage to the car and building. The state Highway Patrol is assisting in the reconstruction.
Damage was estimated at more than $200,000, he said.
Vettel said a decision on whether to cite Tucker won’t be made until the investigation is completed.
“We’re well aware of his driving record,” Vettel said, adding police also are looking into Tucker’s health history.
History of violations
A search of court and traffic records found Tucker has been convicted of several traffic violations in the past decade, most recently on Aug. 8 in Iowa.
According to the Iowa State Patrol, Tucker was driving a Freightliner on Interstate 35 when he rear-ended a car in a construction zone where traffic was reduced to one lane. The semitrailer sustained “disabling damage” but fled the scene, later stopping at an off-ramp, where authorities located Tucker.
The patrol cited Tucker for leaving the scene of an accident, following too closely and a driving log violation. Later that month, he pleaded guilty to following too closely, damage to vehicle and violating the maximum hours of driving allowed by law and was fined more than $500, court records show.
Tucker said the driver of the car he rear-ended erred by deciding to quickly pull in front of him and “stand on the brakes.”
“I didn’t have too much of a chance there,” he said.
Iowa court records also show he was fined for a leaky brake hose in June 2007 and a maximum hours violation in September 2009.
Tucker was involved in two mishaps in Missouri, court records show.
He pleaded guilty and was fined in Clay County, Mo., for “operating a motor vehicle in a careless and imprudent manner” in an accident on Nov. 13, 2007.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Tucker was driving in the left lane of I-35 when he changed lanes to the right and went off the side of the road and down an embankment. He crossed a frontage road and entered a field before pulling back onto the road, where he stopped, said Loretta Mitchell, safety analyst for the highway patrol.
Tucker, reiterating what he told the patrol at the time, explained that he had a bad cold and started choking on phlegm and tried to pull over. The patrol listed the probable circumstances of the accident as inattention and physical impairment.
The other accident in Missouri occurred Sept. 16, 2009, when Tucker was changing lanes and hit a car on Interstate 435 in the Kansas City area, Mitchell said. No one was injured.
Tucker said the woman driving the car was “busy yapping on the phone” and wouldn’t move over, and he had no choice but to merge because he was approaching an off-ramp where trucks weren’t allowed.
In Minnesota, Tucker was fined $105 for an overweight violation in Washington County and cited for speeding 64 mph in a 55-mph zone in Pipestone County, both in March 2003, online court records show. He was cited for speeding 45 mph in a 35 mph zone in Cass County, N.D., on March 24, 2007.
‘A good employee’
The truck involved in Monday’s accident is owned by JD Kraemer Enterprises of Fargo.
Owner Jeff Kraemer said Tucker has worked for the company for almost a year.
“He’s been a good employee, good worker, been on time, everybody likes him,” he said.
Kraemer said Tucker is currently on leave as advised by his doctor. He said he couldn’t discuss Tucker’s future employment with the company.
The company conducts background checks on drivers and was aware of Tucker’s rear-end accident in Iowa, he said.
Kraemer called Monday’s crash “an unfortunate incident for everybody.”
“I thank the Lord that nobody was injured and nobody was killed,” he said.
Tucker said he doesn’t know what caused him to black out before Monday’s crash, reported at 11:09 a.m. He said it’s the first time he’s blacked out while driving.
The diabetic said he had been eating a lot of oranges that morning, but he doesn’t know if that was a factor. He takes medication and has his blood tested twice a year, he said.
Tucker, who in the past has operated his own business, JT Trucking, said he’s already looking for a new line of work, possibly as a dispatcher.
“I’m not going to try to drive anymore,” he said.