Whistleblower claims deadly tanker crash 'bound to happen'

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- A whistleblower has come forward on the heels of a deadly tanker crash on Interstate 17 in North Phoenix, saying Cactus Transport drivers are forced to work dangerously long hours.  

The rollover accident claimed the life of the driver of the tanker truck, shutting down the highway for hours as crews worked to clean up hot asphalt oil spilled in the crash.

An Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesperson said the preliminary cause of the crash was driver fatigue. Witnesses noticed the driver swerving on the road in the moments before the accident. Evidence at the scene showed road signs the driver knocked over before crashing into a pole.

A coworker of the man killed contacted 3TV, saying he knew a crash like this would happen soon.

“The first thing that went through my mind was it was bound to happen. It was coming any day,” said Robert, a Cactus Transport employee of the past two months.

Robert says from the moment he began working there, he was pressured to work beyond the maximum hours without a break.

“It’s very dangerous to have people that tired working around that kind of stuff,” he says. “The hours that they give these guys, they don’t give them rest time. They want them to stop one job, get ready to go to the next and work all that day without any kind of breaks or rests.”

3TV investigated, pulling Cactus Transport’s safety record with the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Records show that in the past two years, the company has had 15 hour of service violations, where drivers either didn’t have any records showing how long they’d worked or their hours were not up to date.

The violations also included one incident where Cactus Transport was caught requiring drivers to stay on the road longer than 14 hours. Since May, drivers were caught in two separate incidents going over their maximum eight-hour limit without a 30-minute break.

The fatal crash on Aug. 1 was not included in the most recent data available on the company.

Robert says many drivers are working 80 hours a week or more and cooking their books, keeping two separate logs -- one to show DPS during inspections and another to turn in to the company so they can be properly paid for the actual time they work.

3TV placed calls to Cactus Transport for its response to the accusations. When calls were not returned, 3TV went by the company’s office in Tolleson, however the property was gated. Employees told us they would let management know we were outside, but no one ever came out to speak to us.

Robert has now put in his notice with the company, saying he does not want to compromise his own safety.

“I just don’t want to see any more of my colleagues hurt,” Robert said. “This industry, there seems to be more and more people getting hurt because they are overworked.”

A DPS spokesperson says it could be months before the investigation into all of the details surrounding the crash is complete. A request for information about whether Cactus Transport will be examined as part of that investigation was not immediately answered.