GOLDEN, Colo — Social media is currently on fire with calls for truckers to boycott Colorado after a former trucker received 110 years in prison for a crash that killed four people in 2019.
The sentence, many contend, was far too much.
Rogel Lazaro Aguilera Mederos, 25, was convicted of vehicular homicide and other charges by a Jefferson County jury on Oct. 15 in connection with the April 2019 crash on Interstate 70 west of Denver, The Denver Post reported.
During his sentencing on Dec. 13, Aguilera Mederos reportedly wept and said he can’t sleep and thinks about the victims “all the time.” He also said he wasn’t a criminal.
Aguilera Mederos testified that the brakes on his semitrailer failed before he plowed into vehicles that had slowed because of another wreck in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.
Prosecutors argued he could have used one of several runaway ramps as his truck barreled down from the mountains. The chain-reaction wreck ruptured gas tanks, causing flames that consumed several vehicles and melted parts of the highway just after it descends from the mountains west of Denver.
In response to the brewing boycott, which has taken on the hashtag #NoTrucksToColorado, the Colorado Motor Carriers issued the following statement on Twitter: “Feel for driver. #NoTrucksToColorado has some info that is not accurate. Not mech. failure – brakes gave way due to inexper. driver traveling in mtns above posted speeds/ not gearing down — overheated brakes gave way. He knew of hot brakes yet bypassed runaway truck ramp.”
Twitter user @Not_YouFatJesus said in support of Aguilera Mederos: “It makes me happy to see truckers standing up for the 26 year old Latino who got 110 years. That’s a ridiculous sentence for what was obviously an accident. Meanwhile you have privileged yt boys getting no jail time for pre-planned murders #NoTrucksToColorado”
Twitter user @AOrtega_80 said that he and his brother “have decided that we (Brown Eagle LLC) have joined the protest and are not getting any loads out of or to Colorado until Rogel gets justice cause 110 years is ridiculous. The company should be held accountable!”
Swirls of misinformation are also appearing on TikTok and other social media platforms. A photo that purportedly showed 18-wheelers backed up for miles on a Colorado interstate in response to the Aguilera Mederos boycott was misrepresented. The trucks were gridlocked because of icy weather.
And there are many who are calling out the boycott as unnecessary.
“I suggest truckers and new truckers take every load available going to and from Colorado,” Twitter user @JamesonTaj wrote. “There’s a strike of #notruckstocolorado and it’s the perfect time to make extra money for the holidays. Let them protest for their criminal and let us make money #colorado #rogelaguilera”
A petition to free Aguilera Mederos has appeared on the website change.org.
Posted by Heather Gilbee, the petition reads: “We all know of the crash that happened on I-70 in Denver, Colorado. Most of us have heard facts in the case. Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, 23 has nothing on his driving record, or on his criminal history. He had complied with every single request by the Jefferson County courts, and investigators on the case. Hes passed all of the drug and alcohol tests that were given including a chemical test.
“This accident was not intentional, nor was it a criminal act on the drivers part. No one but the trucking company he is/was employed by should be held accountable for this accident. No, we are not trying to make it seem any less of a tragic accident that it is because yes, lives were lost. We are trying to hold the person who needs to be held responsible, responsible. The trucking company has had several inspections since 2017, with several mechanical violations.
“There are many things Rogel could have done to avoid the courts, but he took responsibility showed up and severely apologized to the victims families. Some of the families even offered Forgiveness. Rogel is not a criminal, the company he was working for knew the federal laws that go into truck driving but they failed to follow those laws. Rogel has said several times that he wishes he had the courage to crash and take his own life that day, this tragic accident wasn’t done with Intent, it wasn’t a criminal act, it was an accident. Since he has been sentenced, i have changed this to granting Rogel clemency or commutation-as time served.”
So far, more than 2.7 million people have signed the petition.
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.
110 years is not right. You can murder some one and only get 25 years ,
That judge must not of liked truckers.
I feel for the family’s but come on this is plan down ridiculous they’re making an example of this year you made it yes he was young which probably scared to death I know I would have been I did my brakes to fail but thank God I got it stopped I mean come on 110 years.
I pray someone helps this young man.
The judge’s hands were tied due to mandatory sentencing laws, which dictated not only minimum sentences for each individual count, but required they be served consecutively. He publicly stated that this is not the sentence he would have passed down if he’d had discretion.
When are drivers going to learn to drive their truck ahead of the front of the hood..and not behind the trailer..from what I read..this driver had pulled over with his brakes smoking..PULLED OVER and STOPPED..then continued on with hot smoking brakes..saw that his brakes were failing..passed at least one truck escape ramp..and continued down the hill..slamming into stopped traffic…when does the stupid stop here? It is sad that many trucking companies don’t teach mountain driving..and that would be going down a hill longer than 4 miles and at least a 6% grade..there was a lot of failure here..the failure of the driver..the failure of the company that he drove for..the failure of who ever taught him to drive.. As for the sentence?it goes along with the 100 s of million dollar lawsuits..a lot out of alignment…perhaps 2 years per life taken..this was a terrible accident..he wasn’t a serial killer.. There is no penalty for stupidity and lack of common sense…if there was.. the prisons would be jam packed..doing a boycott is useless..but letter writing isn’t to the executive and legislative branch of the government of Colorado..and to the media..sounds more like a bad law than an over zealous judge..
This is a great comment, completely agree
Even the most seasoned driver gets scared at the thought of brakes failure. This guy is young and I wouldn’t doubt he lost his nerve when it happened. Yes he should have used the runaway ramp/s but at that moment you get scared out of your mind. So many things run through your mind.
This sentence is excessive. It was an accident, he is young and one perceived. He WAS NOT drunk or under the influence, it was a devastating accident, with devastating consequences. I feel for those who were injured or lost their lives, but essentially he has now lost his. Criminals who deliberately cause harm or death to others are not punished to this extent. Show some mercy. This is not justice.
Inexperienced, not percieved”
Whoever wrote this article is not telling the truth. There’s no icy conditions on the freeways in Colorado it’s 40 degrees out here I live in Colorado sun is shining no snow no ice Truckers are showing solidarity
You are correct sort of; on the day the pictures of the trucks parked and lined up on roadways were taken, southern Colorado in particular had a serious wind storm. CDOT shut down I-25, which caused the parked trucks on the interstate between South Denver to the New Mexico border. So, these pictures are not because of ice, but because of wind. Not a protest.
Sentence is harsh, but if he was desending over the speed limit and was not gearing down, and did not attempt to use runaway ramp, HES GUILTY.
VERY tragic affair and sad for several parties.. The dead obviously – 4 lives wiped instantly burning to death painfully, their widows n orphan families, Liabilities for the company and staggering insurance rights offs including taxpayers having to re-do that burned road section, his family and the driver too.
Let that be a lesson to all these reckless drivers. Until Elon Musk builds semi-autonomous trucks, better be very aware of the deadly missile you control daily. The days of human-error are numbered but till then, drive like you and your families lives depended on it.
I recall getting my class A license and being told a car in the wrong hands is a weapon and even in my SUV am aware of it. Cant comprehend how one realizes his brakes are bad, yet returns to driving it anyhow ignoring the imminent danger. This was not an “accident” but a disaster waiting to happen.
Like the news commentator said, in the state of Colorado they do not differentiate from an accident causing deaths or a premeditated murder. Something very wrong there. This was a totally unfair sentence and the company should have been held accountable…period.
“Prosecutors argued he could have used one of several runaway ramps as his truck barreled down from the mountains”.
The prosecutor is lying. There is only one poorly-designed runaway ramp on Genesee Hill that you can’t enter if you are going too fast without flipping your truck at high speed. It is halfway down the hill with another 3.5 miles of 6% grade below it.
There is a hard left blind descending curve immediately above the right-hand runaway ramp. If you cut in on that curve like a racecar driver trying to stay upright you can’t make the entrance to the only runaway ramp. It isn’t a question of intentionally missing the ramp. It is a question of trying to stay upright at 90 mph plus with a high center of gravity load.
The ramp should have been built at-least 700-1000 feet further downhill to give the driver of an out of control truck enough time to cut-in and then roll out of that sharp curve, and then cross 3 traffic lanes and safely enter the ramp. Once you cut in on that sharp left blind curve you can’t make it to the runaway ramp entrance.
As I recall when it was built there as an argument against putting it where it is, but other better safer locations downhill would have cost more.
Really there should be a second lower runaway ramp with the amount of traffic on the lower hill now, which is often slowed or stopped. One could be built in the median downhill from the 470 junction where there is a 2500-foot straight stretch before the 6th Ave overpass. There could even be a long safety lane leading into it built in the median too.
I am a retired trucker who ran Colorado’s mountains for more than 20 years often daily. I drove for Coors Transportation 30 years ago and retired from Denney Transport 12 years ago due to declining eyesight. What happened here was negligence caused by inexperience and a lack of mountain driving experience. It wasn’t murder.
The State is trying to claim that he is a reckless murderer for missing the only runaway ramp, when he cut across 3 lanes in that blind left curve before the runaway ramp trying to stay upright and avoid an almost-certain fatal high speed rollover crash, that could have caused as bad or worse damage that what happened further downhill.
Once you cut left into that last hard left blind curve trying to stay upright it is impossible to roll out and safely make the runaway ramp. You can’t see the ramp entrance coming into the curve. It is a poor design that could have been much safer for some additional cost.
I could see a conviction for negligent homicide but no more than 10 years maximum. He was wildly overcharged. He should have taken the plea bargain.
This case reminds me of a case 25 years ago when a rookie railroad engineer started off the top of Tennessee Pass going too fast and crashed his train down by Camp Hale.
DERAILMENT AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS RELEASE
SOUTHERN PACIFIC LINES
TENNESSEE PASS, COLORADO
FEBRUARY 21, 1996, NTSB Report:
I had the brakes fail on a steep hill. It is scary. Panic is easy. I had enough experience to head for the snow bank and scrub off some speed. I still hit the hairpin at the halfway point at over twice the posted limit. Fortunately there was no one else on the road and I managed to get the rig stopped. The cause was a salt corroded valve. I’ve hated salt on the highways ever since.
110 yrs is totally stupid. If I was trucking today I would quit. Why risk jail just for going to work?
A boycott. That will do something. There are only three days of food in the supermarkets. Everything come by truck.
Either rhe judge don’t like Truckers or Latinos. Truckers have a hard dangerous jib. They work trough all beds of weather and work hard
They’re away from their family 30 days at a time, just to get merchandise to their destination. This trucker didn’t get up in the morning and thought, ( Oh today I’m going to kill four people.) It is really really ridiculous what this Judge did. How do I know about a Truckers life, my husband and was one for many years andi went along at times. They can’t just stop and eat any time they want, they don’t get paid alone either but they love what they do.
I’ve driven for half my life. Got out of more near disasters than I can count. How many of us have made split second decisions to avoid disaster? This kid, not really fully experienced, made a mistake by missing the escape ramp. It would be a travesty to make him spend the rest of his life in prison. It could have easily been any one of us. It’s time for all truckers to take a stand. Let this young man go. His life is already ruined. I know a trucker friend of mine that ran over a kid, through no fault of his own. He was never the same again. Been pumping gas ever since. Never got behind the wheel again.
Always go down one gear lower than you went up – and if you don’t have jakes, two or three gears lower. If you’re not near the bottom of the mountain, stop on the shoulder at the first sign of smoking brakes and let them cool off, or at least brake hard enough to drop a couple of gears while you still can. (Of course, old-school operators will tell you to never try’n grab a lower gear on a downgrade, ‘cause if you miss you’ll be worse off.)
Rules of the road just like slower traffic keep right and don’t out-drive your headlights at night. Anyone who’s driven more than a week knows how seldom those practical standards are followed.
The downhill speed limit on Cabbage Hill in Oregon for a rig grossing 75k or more is posted at 18 mph. In over 30 years of running the Northwest I’ve seen maybe 1 rig in 200 actually go that slow – I’ve also personally seen maybe a half-dozen brake fires and the occasional occupied runaway ramp.
Most of the time I jake down the hill perfectly safely between 25 and 35 mph and never touch the brake pedal, but if I was EVER in an accident on that stretch the OSP would certainly cite me for “driving too fast for conditions,” at a minimum.
That said, a 110 year sentence for a stupid mistake is criminal in itself. In hindsight what he should have done is easy to determine – we all like to think we’d do it better, but in those moments when the brakes are shot, the speedo pegs and terror overwhelms the adrenaline …
I think part of the overall problem is truckers often get punished for trying to do the right thing.
Nodding off behind the wheel? Best not pull over and take a nap on the next on-ramp, ‘cause a lot of states will write you a ticket for that – even though they’ve closed half the rest areas, the few truck stops around are full by 5pm and most states won’t let you park at a scale house, even if it’s closed. They’ve even taken to putting gates, barricades or barrels across the off ramp when they’re closed so you can’t even pull in to safely do a quick safety check.
Ditch the rig in the median or a runaway ramp to potentially avoid a worse accident? They’ll cite you for everything from speeding too fast for conditions, failure to maintain control of your vehicle, any and every vehicle violation they can find (and they’ll look HARD), perhaps destruction of state property if you hit a sign or tear up a culvert – all the way up to felony reckless driving in some states. After all, by the time you take such an extreme last ditch move on a downgrade you’re likely waaaay over the posted speed limit.
So maybe in the midst of that panicked moment you think, “I can ditch it and get multiple serious violations that will stay on my record for years, have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to repair the rig on top of a four-figure towing bill, blow up my insurance premiums and probably lose my job or I can try’n ride it out.”
No one ever gives kudos to the driver who intentionally wrecks his rig to possibly, hypothetically save lives. No, it’s nothing but punishment. There’s no positive CSA score for doing the right thing in a bad situation and using a runaway ramp. If you’re a company driver it may just be the end of your career.
And now the ATA and big companies want to change the law to let 18 year old kids drive rigs interstate … which of course includes things like the Rockies, Cabbage and any other tricky bit of highway.
Yeah, let me know how that works out.
FYI, the problem isn’t a national driver shortage but declining driver pay. I’ve seen lots of recruitment ads this past year offering O/Os significantly less money per mile than I was making back in the ‘90s.
Comprehensive and consistent training is expensive, as is experience and quality equipment.
Who in their right mind runs 300+ days per year away from home, works 8+ hours per day 7 days per week, puts up with crap food, Byzantine laws, zero real respect from anyone … all for an industry average of $47,130 per year for a company driver (before taxes, of course), according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics?
You get what you pay for.
Two things, I have read several times that out of the very mouth of the prosecutors has come the point that this driver was inexperienced, that fact alone should take blame away from the driver and if anyone is to be charged it should be the company he drove for! Secondly, I also have read in a few places that they judge made his sentencing based on state guidelines, that means the egregious nature of these charges should be blamed on the prosecutor who saw fit to level so many charges. If I lived in Colorado and cared about any of this my first order of business would be to get that prosecutor removed from office. My grandfather was a trucker my father was a trucker and I did it for a little while, didn’t care for it but the fact of the matter is between two men truck driving fed 21 children give me a damn break people that man did not deserve all of that time
The prosecutor states that there are 4 runaway ramps Mr Aguilera Mederos could have used.
There is only one on the eastbound side. Further that ramp is over 4 miles away.
Where was the carrier on training? Why wasn’t the chief safety officer of the company in the docket with the driver?
Yes the driver failed to control his vehicle, however to fault Mr Aguilera Mederos exclusively at fault and then to sentence him, effectively, to the rest of his life in jail, when drunk drivers get probation for accidents involving multiple deaths . . .. .
PS The prosecutor should be cited for fraud upon the court for making the statement about four available emergency ramps.
This young man shouldn’t have 110 yrs to think about what he did. He made a stupid decision to not use the runaway ramp, exits, shoulders, or uphill grades to stop the truck call his company and refuse to go another foot until the truck was repaired. Companies have gotten used to being able to bully drivers with threats of being fired, stranded, calling the police and reporting a truck stolen, and any other number of tactics to get an employee to continue when the vehicle is not safe or the driver doesn’t feel safe.
Fmcsa should have been standing on the door step of the company the next morning after the accident to inspect the rest of the fleet per court order.
This young man took it upon himself to try to save the company vehicle and customers load instead of the motoring public. As a driver it is my job to safely move freight from point a to point b inthe safest manner I can. At no point in time is my truck trailer or load more important than the lives of the 25 yr old mother and her child in the car next to me.
You are correct! SHUT IT DOWN!
I’ve had brakes go out. I get to a safe space & call dispatch. I have been told to stay in service. These are the words I use:
“Are you telling me to drive without brakes, headlights, a horn, etc.?”
Put the responsibility on the company. They usually say no.
File complaints with FMCSA. Report your company to DOT & OHSA. If your company continually has service issues, change companies. A transportation company that can’t keep it’s fleet maintained is not properly managed. There will be other issues down the line. Issues like a short check, missing trips, asking you to go against safety regs, etc.
I was a shop steward & safety is my ministry. Pre-trip issues? SHUT IT DOWN! Always write all defects on your pre & post trip. Those documents are used in court.
You passed the test for that CDL, not the company. As you see, if you have an accident you are on your own. Do what you were trained to do.
Know the regulations. Carry a book in your bag. If you don’t have one, pester Safety until you get one. Read your CDL driver’s manual often. Be ready to cite rules when needed. Tired? “FMCSA says I cannot drive if tired or fatigued. Are you telling me to break the law?”
If you are fired due to adhering to federal & written company regulations, file a complaint with EEOC, OSHA, and anyone else you can think of.
Our responsibility is to ourselves & the public. That load is secondary. We know the times on those routes are unrealistic. Stop trying to beat the clock! If we drive properly & stop running hot they have no choice but to re-evalute times.
I am a bus driver & have been in situations that the company did not care if I took out passengers and/or the public. They were only concerned with On-time Performance.
I laugh every time I hear about truck, transit & school bus drivers. My CDL is and will always be active but I refuse to drive for low pay & high stress.