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FHP Investigating Fatal I-75 Semi Truck Accident in Ocala, Florida

OCALA – The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a fatal truck accident that took place on the northbound ramp of I-75 at State Road 40 on Sunday.

The accident occurred when a van struck a semi tractor trailer, which was parked on the side of the road but was partially blocking the on-ramp. After the initial impact, the van collided with another tractor-trailer. The van driver was killed.

FHP may decide to file criminal charges against the truck driver but won’t know until additional witnesses are interviewed and the vehicles have been inspected.

Neither Richard E. Johnson of Ocala, the driver of the parked truck, nor the driver of the other truck driver, William T. Luke, of Hawkinsville, Ga. were hurt.

Tony Rodriguez, a spokes person for F & R Trucking, the company that employs Johnson, said the truck was headed to Atlanta to pick up freight.

According to the accident report, the accident occurred at 4:40 p.m. when James J. Harding drove a 1996 Dodge van onto the northbound ramp, preparing to merge with traffic that was northbound on I-75. That’s when he hit a 2001 Freightliner, whose driver’s side wheels and a portion of the truck were blocking the lanes of travel on the ramp.

The van rear-ended the trailer and ended up in the path of a 2001 Peterbilt that was hauling cars.

The 42 year old Harding was thrown from the van onto the median of I-75 and was pronounced dead at the scene. The traffic report indicates that Harding was not wearing a seat belt.

Troopers said Johnson parked his semi truck along the roadway in order to fill out his logbook at the start of his shift.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway said he could not say for sure if any criminal charges would be filed until the investigation was completed.

Johnson had two speeding tickets on his record, the first was in 2002 in California, and the second one was in 2004 in Osceola County, Florida. A Marion County sheriff’s deputy also gave Johnson a ticket for passing on a double yellow line in 2006.

F & R Trucking’s main office is located off Northeast 42nd Lane. The company is involved in interstate commence.

Johnson, who had only been working for F&R Trucking for about a year, had no comment when reporters reached him at his home.

F&R Trucking is owned by Felipe Rodriguez.

Truckers have a responsibility to make sure that they operate their rig safely for the benefit of motorists and the public and that includes parking their truck. Semi tractor trailers are so big and heavy that extreme care must be excercised in every aspect of their operation. Parking a semi on the side of the road so that the driver can fill out his log book is irresponsible. Truck drivers should fill out the log entry at each change in duty status, however, if that didn’t happen, they should wait until they are at a safe location such as a rest stop or gas station to complete the entry.

This accident, like most truck accidents, was preventable and should never have occurred.

The experienced Florida Truck Accident Attorneys at our firm know the Federal laws that regulate the trucking industry and know how to hold irresponsible trucking companies responsible for the harm they and their negligent drivers cause.