Truck Rollover Driver had 10 prior Convictions and Seven Accidents

According to news reports: The driver of a heating-oil delivery truck that rolled over and spilled its load along the Maine Turnpike earlier this month has a long record of traffic violations, including 10 speeding convictions and seven prior accidents, two of which involved injuries. Garry Glatz of Durham has accumulated a total of 28 traffic convictions and accidents since 1982. The incidents range from insurance violations to failing to obey a stop sign and not stopping for a red light. Glatz wasn’t charged in the Dec. 5 accident. The exact cause of the rollover isn’t clear, according to state police. His company, Independence Fuel, however, was fined for having a defective suspension — in this case, a broken spring.

In an interview, Glatz blamed the broken spring for his inability to control the truck as it entered a curve on a ramp, heading to the turnpike’s northbound lanes from the Falmouth spur. Glatz acknowledged problems in his driving history, but noted that all the violations took place in his personal cars, not commercial trucks.

“I consider myself a safe driver,” he said.

Truck drivers with a history of violations involving their personal cars can have their commercial licenses suspended. That isn’t happening to Glatz. Government regulations recently have been tightened up — but they don’t cover convictions before September 2005.Glatz is a familiar name in Maine’s alternative energy community. His brother, Joel, is a founder of Frontier Energy in China, the state’s oldest bio-fuels dealer.

Garry Glatz is the owner and sole driver at Independence Fuel, which delivers blended biodiesel and heating oil in southern and central Maine. He mixes the bio-fuel at Frontier’s depot in South Portland.
Glatz’s truck was nearly full with roughly 2,800 gallons of bio-fuel when the Dec. 5 rollover took place. The load contained a blend of 80 percent petroleum and 20 percent processed vegetable oil.

Glatz was driving west on the spur when his vehicle entered the ramp curve. The spur has a posted speed limit of 50 mph. The ramp has an advisory speed of 35 mph. The road was dry and the weather clear, according to the police accident report. The truck went through a guardrail and crossed the turnpike’s northbound lanes. It crashed through the median guardrail and into the southbound lanes, which were closed for nearly three hours.

Glatz was not injured seriously and no other vehicles were involved, but the crash ruptured the fuel tank and most of the load spilled. The crash site is next to the Presumpscot River, but a small earthen berm along the breakdown lane helped keep the oil from running into the river, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Quick response by Falmouth firefighters and others kept fuel from the water.

The cleanup’s final cost hasn’t been tabulated, but it could be $10,000 to $15,000, the DEP estimated. Glatz’s insurance carrier is expected to pay the bill.

Police who investigated the accident said they couldn’t determine whether Glatz was driving too fast on the ramp. No skid marks were present, according to Trooper David Andreasen.

“He’s claiming that his load just shifted,” Andreasen said.

Glatz said he was driving at the legal limit, but may have approached the ramp at a bad angle. The load shifted, and when he tried to get the truck under control, he said, a leaf spring on the driver’s side gave way.

An inspection of the truck by the state’s commercial vehicle enforcement unit found a defective spring in the 1986 Ford. That’s an old vehicle by industry standards, according to Trooper Chris Cyr, but not dangerous if properly maintained.

The charge carries a $100 fine. Glatz said he will pay it.

Glatz said what happened on the ramp isn’t related to his driving history, which state records show begins with operating without a license in 1982.

Between 1986 and 1988, Glatz was cited three times for speeding and once for running a stop sign. He also was involved in a four-vehicle accident in Gorham.

During the 1990s, he was involved in accidents in Augusta, Windham and Portland. He also was cited six times for speeding and once for failing to stop for a red light.

Since 2000, he has been cited for accidents in Lewiston and West Gardiner and had two speeding charges.

Interspersed among these incidents are several rule violations, such as failing to display a valid registration plate and not having a valid inspection sticker.

His most recent driving problem before the accident came Nov. 25, when Freeport police stopped his car. Glatz was charged with operating while his license was suspended or revoked, a condition imposed for having failed to pay for insurance earlier this year. Glatz cleared up that matter and was properly licensed when this truck accident occurred.

Drivers operating trucks the size of Glatz’s oil delivery rig need a Class B commercial license, along with a special endorsement for transporting hazardous materials. Glatz said he has had one for three years. He also has experience driving trucks while operating under company licenses in years past, he said.

As of September 2005, federal regulations require states to suspend commercial driver licenses for operators convicted of specific violations, according to Robert O’Connell, the state’s director of driver license services. Among the charges are operating under the influence, operating after suspension, or two speeding convictions that are 15 mph over the limit within three years.

Glatz’s driving history includes such a tally: driving 61 mph in a 45-mph zone and driving 58 mph in a 35-mph zone. But because the violations were in 1994 and 1995, they aren’t included by the new regulations.

In the future, Glatz said, he’ll pay more attention to his truck’s condition. The defective spring should have been noticed during inspections, he said.

Glatz’s truck was totaled in the rollover. He has spent the past week getting another used oil delivery truck so he can get back on the road.”I’ve been out of business a week, and that’s tough on a small company,” he said.