AUSTIN, Texas — When the news of a Texas trucking company’s death hit national headlines, it didn’t come as a surprise.
It was a tragedy for trucking.
A single-engine, two-seat Cessna 182 crashed and burst into flames on Interstate 40 near Fort Worth, Texas, in June of 2016.
As of Friday, the crash had cost more than $500 million and claimed the lives of three truck drivers.
The death toll is still rising.
“We’ve had the deaths of some of our own crew members, our families,” said Robert G. Broussard, president and CEO of Texas Trucking Association, the industry group representing truckers.
“And I’m not going to lie to you: We’ve had a lot of people’s lives and livelihoods disrupted.”
The company behind the accident, Express Logistics, had been a partner in an acquisition deal to buy rival Express Logical Services in the wake of the deadly accident.
The deal was completed in April of 2019.
As part of the deal, ExpressLogistics also agreed to buy up to $300 million in debt from Cargill, one of the world’s largest grain producers.
A number of state agencies, including the Texas Transportation Institute, have expressed concerns about ExpressLogic’s financial performance, including recent debt service payments totaling $3.3 billion.
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“It’s a tough business,” said John L. Martin, president of the Texas Business and Industry Council.
“In this day and age, it’s a difficult business.”
ExpressLogics has faced several lawsuits in recent years, including one filed last year in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
In addition to the Texas lawsuit, a lawsuit filed in California in January by the company against the state of Texas alleges that the state and ExpressLogical failed to adequately address problems with the company’s management and business practices, including allegations of false or misleading financial information.
“The company did everything it could to keep its business afloat and it failed miserably,” said Martin, adding that ExpressLogicals has paid back its loans in full.
“When you take that into consideration, the amount that’s been paid back is significant.
It’s $100 million.
That’s the amount they owe to the state.
It can be a little scary.”
Express Logics said it would review the state’s allegations and take additional actions.
“ExpressLogic was and remains a great example of a successful and responsible company,” the company said in a statement to the Tribune.
“Our team is extremely proud of the accomplishments we have achieved, both on and off the trucking trail.
We look forward to working with the state to address any further issues that may arise.”
Brouissard acknowledged that the company was still dealing with a number of outstanding issues.
“Right now, we are dealing with one outstanding case, and we are going to deal with that in a way that allows us to be transparent and get it resolved,” he said.
But the state is not satisfied with the way ExpressLogies handled its finances and has filed another lawsuit against the company.
In the wake the crash, the state has issued a raft of regulations and penalties to ExpressLogys trucks, including fines totaling $1.2 billion.
In March, Texas passed legislation to prohibit operators from driving commercial trucks without a certificate of insurance, as ExpressLogs does.
In April, Texas became the first state to mandate commercial truck insurance for all drivers, a requirement that is being challenged in court.
A spokesperson for ExpressLogas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, ExpressLanes spokesperson Kristine P. Wiersema wrote that the firm is “deeply saddened by the news” of the accident.
“To the Express Logicals employees, our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families,” she said.
“As a responsible operator, ExpressLOGICS has addressed these issues to the fullest extent possible, and continues to work with regulators, law enforcement and the Texas Department of Public Safety to ensure that all our customers and drivers are protected.”
ExpressLans has been fined $1 million for not providing an annual commercial truck driver’s insurance policy.
But it has not paid the fine.
The company has also been ordered to pay $1,500 in fines for the same infractions, which could result in a fine of more than double the amount the company paid.
The Tribune’s Scott Wilson contributed to this report.
Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at [email protected] or 602-444-5936.
Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/joshnathankas.