The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Thursday, July 12, 2012

By Katie Leslie


The trucking company involved in a wreck that killed an 8-year-old Decatur boy and severely injured his mother Wednesday has been flagged by federal transportation officials for a history of unsafe practices.

CW Transport LLC, a small trash-hauling fleet based in Atlanta, has so many vehicle maintenance violations that it ranks among the worst 6 percent of companies its size across the country, federal records show. Seventeen of 18 vehicle inspections performed during the past two years uncovered violations; six of those inspections resulted in trucks being taken off the road.

In terms of unsafe driving — a separate category from vehicle maintenance — CW Transport has a worse record than two-thirds of firms its size. The company — which state records indicate was created in September, 2010 — had no previous crashes involving a fatality or injuries.

An attorney for CW Transport issued a statement Thursday on behalf of the company and its owner, Greg Wynn: "CW Transport is actively investigating the cause of this unfortunate incident. Our deepest sympathies go out to all of those that are affected and their families."

CW Transport's history of violations put the company at risk of federal intervention. A spokeswoman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which compiles data on the inspections, did not return calls Thursday.

Georgia State Patrol officials said the fatal wreck occurred on I-20 when transmission parts fell from a tractor trailer operated by CW Transport. The debris flew across the median, crashing through the windshield of an oncoming SUV. It struck the driver, Jameka Malone, in the arm before killing her 8-year-old son, Cameron McIlwain, who was riding in the back seat.

No charges have been filed against truck driver David Washington, 52, officials said.

Guy Young, vice president and safety director with the nonprofit Georgia Motor Trucking Association, said trucking companies are required by federal law to undergo an annual maintenance inspections. They are also required to perform inspections of their vehicles before and after every trip he said.

Young said a problem with the transmission wouldn't necessarily be apparent in a pre- or post-trip inspection.

"There's nothing he would do in his normal routine, other than drive it, to know if there's anything particularly wrong with the transmission," Young said. "Other components are easier to check and to know ... it's a visual check, not a mechanical check."

But a national trucking safety expert, Lew Grill, said that a company with a history of safety violations should be more aggressive in daily inspections.

"They may argue [the transmission issue] was a latent defect that nobody could see," said Grill, who said he has appeared as an expert witness in more than 1,000 cases. "But with a carrier with so many violations ... if they wanted to improve, they should go over and above a simple and cursory look."

Inspectors who examined CW Transport's vehicles found trucks with such issues as inoperative head and tail lamps, wheel fasteners loose or missing and "no or insufficient warning devices," according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records. The company was also cited for operating without periodic inspections and failure to correct defects noted by inspectors.

CW Transport had a worse maintenance record than 94.6 percent of companies of similar size, documents show.

"If you hit 100 percent, it means nobody is worse than you," Grill said.

The company was ranked worse than 67.5 percent of similarly sized companies for unsafe driving.

Trucks were taken out of service in 33.3 percent of inspections. By comparison, the average for all companies inspected in 2009 and 2010 was 21 percent, according to the FMCSA.

According to the most recent data from the agency, CW Transport employs four drivers and maintains four trucks and five trailers.