(Reno, Nevada – July 27, 2011)
The driver of the empty gravel-hauling semi trailer truck that hit Amtrak’s “California Zephyr” at the U.S. Highway 75/Union Pacific Railroad grade crossing late Friday morning has been identified as 43-year-old Lawrence R. Valli of Winnemucca, NV, an employee of John Davis Trucking Company in Battle Mountain, NV.
Valli’s truck was the first of a convoy of three similar vehicles headed south from Trinity, NV, but was the only one that failed to stop for the train at the crossing, which had both gates and lights.
Valli died, as did an Amtrak conductor and four passengers. John Davis Trucking is a family-owned business, employing 130 drivers to operate a fleet of 67 trucks which primarily haul sand, gravel and ore from local mining operations. The company’s drivers amassed over 4 million miles of operation last year, and have experienced several infractions, among them maintenance and equipment violations, as well as a January 19 issue in which a truck’s tires were deemed a serious safety hazard and the truck was removed from service.
However, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen felt that, for an operation the size of John Davis Trucking, “having just a couple of tickets I don’t think is an alarming issue.” But Valli himself had committed a total of five moving violations, four of them for speeding, and three of those while driving school buses, and he had been arrested in Washoe County in 2007 for failure to appear in court on one of the charges.