Mendez Trucking owns the red dump truck that was in a fatal crash with an East Brook Middle School bus that was on its way to a field trip on Thursday morning. An teacher and a student were killed and 43 others were injured in the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. So far, the names of the drivers have not been released, and a cause for the crash has not been determined.
Here is what we know so far about Mendez Trucking.
1. The Front of the Bus Was Ripped Off & the Dump Truck’s Front Was Mangled
The bus and the dump truck crashed around 10:30 a.m. on I-80 West in Mount Olive Township, ABC 7 reported. The front end of the bus was torn off and it was lying on its side in a grass median, and it was sheered off its undercarriage. A piece of the front of the bus was lying on top of a metal barrier separating the sides of the highway. The front end of the red dump truck, which is registered to Mendez Trucking, was mangled and parked nearby.
Mount Olive Mayor Robert Greenbaum said about the accident: “I have never seen anything like that. I can only describe it as horrific.”
The East Brook Middle School Bus from Paramus was carrying 38 fifth-grade students, six adults, and the driver. It was in a caravan with two other buses heading to a field trip in Waterloo Village.
The owner of Mendez Trucking, Juan Munoz, did not return phone calls from media sources. But The New York Post said that a woman who identified herself as his wife said on the phone: “I don’t think he really knows anything. They’re waiting to talk to the driver.”
2. Authorities Don’t Yet Know What Caused the Crash, But a Mendez Trucking Employee Said the Driver Was Experienced
At this time, the names of the bus driver and the dump truck driver have not been released. The condition of the bus driver isn’t known. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the driver of the truck was alive and at the hospital, WJCB reported.
An employee for Mendez Trucking told CBS New York that the driver was “experienced.”
A cause for the crash has not been determined. A student, Theo Ancevski, told CBS News that he heard a scraping sound as they tumbled over the highway. “A lot of people were screaming and hanging from their seatbelts.” Theo told NorthJersey.com that he first heard something at the back of the bus before the crash. “Something with one of the trucks behind us got hit as we toppled over,” he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. The accident happened at the Waterloo Village exit, Exit 25, on Route 80.
3. Nine Violations Were Filed Against the Truck that Was in the Fatal Crash
The dump truck was registered to Mendez Trucking of Belleville, ABC 7 reported. The side of the truck read: “In God We Trust.” Mendez Trucking, a local business, has 40 drivers and trucks. (Another report, from CBS, says the company has 33 drivers and 33 trucks, and another report says it has 41 trucks.)
Mendez Trucking trucks have been in seven crashes in the last two years, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records. None of those crashes were fatal. The company did not immediately return media calls for comment.
However, nine violations were filed in the last two years against the very truck that was in the crash, The New York Post reported. These violations included excessive weight, oil and grease leaks, and unsecured cargo. A red dump truck that has the same license plate number was also in a crash in July 2016, the Post reported.
4. Mendez Trucking Was Fined More Than $22,000 in 2016 for Violating Inspection Regulations
In 2016, Mendez Trucking was fined $22,850 for violating inspection regulations, ABC 7 reported. The fine also covered violating repairs, maintenance, and post-crash drug and alcohol testing. In the last two years, the trucks have had 130 violations recorded by the FMCSA, including 17 for leaking or falling cargo, four speed violations, and 27 for excessive weight. (However, the New York Post reported that the company has had 247 violations over the last two years.) Violations also include faulty brakes, damaged windshields, and not securing loads.
ABC 7 reported that the company has a higher-than-average out-of-service rate for its vehicles. This means inspections found violations that needed correction. Mendez’s out-of-service rate was 37.9 percent compared to a national average of 20.7 percent.
But News12NJ disputed this, saying that the $22,000 fine was the company’s only fine in six years and really not that bad when viewed in context.
5. However, Some Sources Are Reporting that Mendez Trucking’s Accident Rate Is Actually Normal
On Business Finder, Mendez Company only has one online review, giving it one star. The reviewer, “Jason,” wrote: “While driving on Route 80, a large rock fell out of the truck shattering my windshield. Originally they were concerned but now, they are denying the facts and will not pay for the repair of my windshield. Very disappointed.”
However, some sources are noting that despite how negative Mendez Trucking’s record might sound, its accident record is actually quite normal when compared to other trucking companies.
Walt Kane of News12NJ wrote: “Here’s the full context:. Mendez had 1.8 accidents/million miles (Feds say 1.7 is acceptable). Vehicles fail inspection more than avg (37%- 20%) but drivers fail less (<1%- 6%). Co was fined $22k for inspection violations in 2016, It’s the only fine in 6 yrs.”
In other words, the company had .1/million accidents a year above the federal government’s acceptable rate. The vehicles fail inspection rates more than average, but the drivers fail less than average. He added that Paramus Board of Education, meanwhile, has a stellar inspection rate.
It’s important to note that no official determination has been made about the cause of the wreck, or whether it might even have been a freak accident with no one at fault. We will update this story with more details once they are known.