Westfield Transport, the defunct Massachusetts trucking company linked to a June 2019 New Hampshire crash that killed seven motorcyclists, did not perform a required background check of 24-year-old driver Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, who awaits trial on several charges including manslaughter, negligent homicide and driving under the influence.
The company did not review Zhukovskyy’s driver history and safety performance, or complete a qualification checklist required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA). When the company first hired Zhukovskyy, a West Springfield resident who was arrested on a drunk driving charge in Connecticut just weeks earlier, Westfield Transport did not maintain a drug testing program for commercial drivers as required by FMCSA.
Westfield Transport only sought to add Zhukovskyy to its insurance policy about an hour after his pickup truck crossed the center lane on U.S. Highway 2 in Randolph, New Hampshire, and crashed into six motorcycles, according to National Transportation Safety Board investigators.
“They basically had nothing,” Michael Fox, an NTSB highway accident investigator, told board members in a public hearing on Tuesday. Essentially “everything” was missing from Zhukovskyy’s file when it comes to required safety protocols, Fox noted.
After an in-depth review by NTSB investigators, who are preparing a report and recommendations to help improve safety in the wake of the crash, NTSB members sharply criticized Westfield Transport and FMCSA for severe lapses in oversight and the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles for systemic administrative failures.
“Not only did the RMV drop the ball, but FMCSA has missed the point as well,” Robert Sumwalt, NTSB chairman, said. He added that Westfield Transport “had nothing except for an unsafe safety culture.”
The NTSB unanimously found the probable cause of the crash was that Zhukovskyy, impaired with both morphine and heroin in his system at the time, crossed over into the oncoming motorcyclists. Neither distracted driving due to a cellphone or other device, nor road and weather conditions, played a role in the crash, NTSB found.
The group also found that broad deficiencies in RMV processing of out-of-state notifications and other administrative failures allowed Zhukovskyy, and more than 5,000 other drivers, to retain their Massachusetts licenses despite several violations on record.
The NTSB found that FMCSA fails to consistently issue imminent hazard orders against unsafe drivers and companies. NTSB described the shutdown orders as an effective tool that can block unsafe drivers and carriers from resuming operations under another outfit, a process dubbed “reincarnation.” Over the last few years, NTSB said FMCSA had only issued a handful of such orders, compared to hundreds of times under the Obama administration.
NTSB also called for added layers of oversight, including more on-site inspections and compliance reviews, of recent graduates of FMCSA’s new