Florida owner-operator truck drivers (ESPECIALLY log-truck drivers) are some of the worst in the universe. There. I said it. As a Floridian AND former over-the-road driver, I said it. There’s just something about combining the inherent psychosis of all Floridians with 80,000 pounds of privately owned truck, with logging, that just turns these drivers into utter death machines. Fortunately, in this case, nobody died — but at least one person was found naked.
The crash occurred in Starke, Florida (of course), which is about 20 miles northeast of Gainesville, near Lawtey. If the name “Lawtey” rings a bell, then you may have read our recent article on The Country’s Biggest Speed Trap coming under investigation. And speed may have played a role in this particular crash, though bad driving (shocker) and a bit of…uhhh…distraction may also have been at fault.
Before the crash, witnesses reported the blue-and-white truck based out of nearby Palatka driving very aggressively, and dangerously weaving in and out of traffic. Which is, in itself, nothing unusual for a Florida owner-op. However, it was when that truck encountered a school bus with 15 children aboard stopped on the busy Highway 301 that the unusual thing happened.
The driver plowed right into the back of it at 60 mph, evidently without ever touching the brakes.
The bus chassis absorbed most of the impact from the likely unloaded logging truck; and thankfully it was unloaded, because had it been running 80,000 pounds, the truck likely would have gone through the bus, disintegrating both and killing everyone, instead of simply shoving the bus into a ditch.
In the aftermath, at least 10 people were injured — 7 students, the bus driver and the two occupants of the tractor-trailer. Those on the bus suffered relatively minor injuries, the most serious of which appears to be a broken foot. The truck driver and his passenger, however, are in critical condition at an area hospital.
When rescue teams arrived, they found a naked woman on the ground; the truck’s passenger, some postulate ejected from the vehicle during the collision. Witnesses do not report seeing her in the front seat, so it’s likely she was in the sleeper cab behind the driver at the time. But it’s quite possible that if she were standing in the back, the force of the crash could have thrown her forward through the passenger-side windshield.
No drugs or alcohol are suspected to be involved. But, here’s a former driver’s assessment of events:
- Dispatcher to driver “Get your a** down to the terminal, we’ve got a hot load to pick up.”
- Driver books it out of the house with wife/girlfriend in tow. Neither have time to get properly dressed.
- Driver hauling through town to get down to terminal, realizes wife/girlfriend is in the back changing.
- Driver looks in the back to watch, stares at her, never sees the school bus stopped ahead of him.
- Truck plows into bus, never hitting the brakes. Naked woman flies from the back, through the front windshield.
Hey, it’s happened to all of us once or twice.
Regardless of how it happened, police are planning on pressing charges on the driver if and when he makes it out of the hospital. The exact nature of the charges will depend on the story he gives them, but reckless endangerment with injuries is most likely. If the scenario above is correct, and he admits to it, he’ll be found guilty of the same. That kind of conviction is usually good for a one-year suspension and permanent ban from ever working in the industry again. But, being a Florida owner-op, he’ll probably be back on the highways running into school buses again in 8 months or so.
And if you’re wondering, yes — the tiny script on the wrecked truck’s sleeper hatch says
“We git ‘n done!“
Doing Central Florida proud. As always.