FMCSA declares Illinois long-hauler a safety hazard after fatal crash

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 2/12/2014

An Illinois-licensed truck driver has been declared an imminent hazard to public safety and ordered not to operate any commercial motor vehicles following a Jan. 27 crash that killed an Illinois Tollway worker and seriously injured an Illinois State Police trooper, according to a release from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Renato V. Velasquez was behind the wheel of a tractor trailer that plowed into an Illinois State Police vehicle and a Tollway vehicle on Jan. 27, after both drivers had pulled over to assist another semi-driver.

The fiery crash killed 39-year-old Tollway worker Vincent Petrella and severely injured 38-year-old state trooper Douglas Balder.

FMCSA safety investigators found that prior to the crash Velasquez violated federal hours-of-service regulations designed to prevent fatigue and falsified his logbooks with the intent of concealing the number of hours he worked.

“The investigators concluded that for a period of 26-hours during Jan. 26-27, Velasquez operated a tractor-trailer for approximately 1,000 miles, only resting between 3-1/2 to 5-1/2 hours – well short of the federally required rest period,” the release stated. 

Federal safety regulations prohibit commercial truck drivers from driving for more than 11 hours each shift and/or remaining on duty after 14 hours of work.

Before reaching his last scheduled stop, Velasquez crashed into the two fully illuminated stationary vehicles, on Interstate 88 outside of Naperville, Ill.

Velasquez has been charged by Illinois authorities with four felony counts, including driving a commercial vehicle while impaired and fatigued, and driving beyond the maximum number of hours. He has been released on bail.

Velasquez’s employer, D N D International of Naperville, has a BASIC score of 91.8 percent in Unsafe Driving and a 90.2 percent score in Hours of Service Compliance, according to data from the FMCSA website, meaning more than 90 percent of other motor carriers in the same safety event group have demonstrated better compliance.

The scores both exceed the FMCSA’s intervention threshold of 65 percent, according to the website.

A spokesman for FMCSA said the investigation remains open.

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