25 Investigates

25 Investigates: Fatal trucking crash exposes heavy haulers running ‘illegally’ late at night

Donna Brisbois describes her 6′5″ son Jacob as a gentle giant, full of kindness and compassion. The 25-year-old Princeton man worked 2 jobs and was a manager at the Leicester Walmart.

Jacob Brisbois was killed last June by an oversized truck hauling a crane to a construction site, according to court records.

“I don’t get through a day without crying. It’s been horrible for all of us. He’ll never fall in love. He’ll never get married, have kids,” Donna Brisbois said.

Brisbois and a friend had pulled their motorcycles into the breakdown lane on Route 190 in Lancaster to stop and talk around 1:30 a.m. The friend told police he had his turn signal on and Jacob “had the flashers on his motorcycle activated” near the rumble strip.

At the same time, 37-year-old Jarod Hardaker, a truck driver from Hubbardston, was heading down the central Massachusetts highway behind the wheel of a 2005 Kenworth heavy hauler that had once been featured on the TV show “Ice Road Truckers.”

Hardaker was hauling a massive Mantis crane on a low bed trailer from Chelmsford to a construction site in Cranston, Rhode Island. Hardaker told police he never saw Brisbois only “sparks from the right side” of his truck when the crane’s right steel tracks clipped Brisbois and his motorcycle as it passed by. Brisbois was pronounced dead at the scene.

State Police investigators discovered the truck and its cargo weighed 146,100 pounds, which is more than 16,000 pounds heavier than allowed without special permitting.

Hardaker’s truck was also oversized. With the hooks used to secure the crane, it measured 15 feet across or about as wide as 2 standard parking spaces, according to the police report.

Oversize and overweight loads that exceed standard permitting are required to obtain superload permits from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Superloads are restricted to specific routes during daylight hours and require signage and escort vehicles to guide them.

Hardaker told police he was driving for Assabet Heavy Hauling in Shirley. A driving record included in his court file shows he was cited for 10 speeding violations since 2005 and his record includes multiple motor carrier safety violations in 2016.

25 Investigates reviewed a 2017 Hubbardston police report that shows Hardaker was involved in a previous crash in Hubbardston while delivering loam to a nearby home. The crash injured an elderly man who was cutting his grass with a riding lawnmower. A witness told police the man on the lawnmower, “appeared to pull out and drive into the rear wheels of the trailer” Hardaker was hauling. Hardaker was not cited in connection with the crash, but the family of the elderly man sued him.

Hardaker pleaded not guilty to motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation and negligent operation of a motor vehicle in Clinton District Court for the crash that killed Jacob Brisbois.

His attorney told 25 Investigates, “Mr. Hardaker recognizes the incredible loss felt by Mr. Brisbois and his family and friends. However, Mr. Hardaker’s driving was not criminally negligent. He was completely sober, attentive, and driving appropriately within the speed limit. He remained on scene and was completely cooperative.”

The day following the crash, a man who would only identify himself as a former Assabet Heavy Hauling driver contacted State Police and said the company “regularly hauls overweight and oversize loads… in the middle of the night” to avoid state and federal truck inspectors who typically don’t work overnight hours.

“Hardaker is the manager of Assabet Heavy Hauling and schedules all of the heavy moves, especially the ones in the middle of the night to avoid CVES,” according to a record of the conversation in a police report. CVES is the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Section of State Police also known as the “Truck Team.”

The former employee said he was laid off from Assabet for refusing to move illegal loads in the middle of the night. He claimed the practice is typical for Assabet and “several other known Massachusetts-based heavy hauling companies,” the police report said.

An Assabet Heavy Hauling employee said she had no comment when 25 Investigates reporter Ted Daniel visited the company and multiple emails 25 Investigates sent to the trucking company went unanswered.

Court documents say a magistrate found Assabet Heavy Hauling civilly responsible for size and weight violations for the crash that killed Jacob Brisbois.

Donna Brisbois told Ted Daniel she continues to deal with immense grief nearly 11 months after losing Jacob.

“I want justice for my son and I would like for this not to happen to any other family, because this is devastating,” she said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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