FMCSA shuts down Illinois freight hauler following deadly crash

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Thursday, April 03, 2014

Having already declared the truck driver who caused a Jan. 27 fatality crash on Interstate 88 in Illinois an imminent hazard to public safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has shut down the company he worked for due to safety violations.

FMCSA has ordered DND International Inc. to immediately shut down after declaring the Naperville, Illinois-based trucking company to be an imminent hazard to public safety, according to a release issued on April 2.

DND International’s compliance with federal safety regulations had been the focus of an investigation that began immediately following the crash that killed an Illinois Tollway worker and seriously injured an Illinois State Police trooper.

The driver, 46-year-old Renato Velasquez, was banned from operating a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce on Feb. 11 following the first phase of an FMCSA investigation. He 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 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.

The second part of the investigation focused on the records of Velasquez and six more drivers operating under DND’s authority. Investigators reportedly found “a continuous pattern of violations” over the last year, including six false records of duty status violations, five 14-hour duty limit violations, two 11-hour driving limit violations and eight violations for driving more than eight hours since the last break of at least 30 minutes, according to the out-of-service order.

“DND International’s drivers routinely travel on Illinois Toll Roads, but DND International refuses to compare toll transaction information to its drivers’ logs to monitor hours of service compliance,” the order stated. “When FMCSA’s investigators compared toll transaction data with the logs from the seven sampled drivers, an unmistakable, dangerous pattern of serious falsification emerged. The drivers had falsified in excess of 25 percent of their records of duty status. All seven drivers falsified their logs during this period.”

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. Motor carriers and their drivers are also required to retain supporting documentation such as receipts for tolls and fuel purchases.

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

The FMCSA release notes that U.S. Senator Dick Durbin asked the agency to step in and conduct an investigation of the freight hauler.

D N D International 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.

Thus far in 2014, FMCSA has revoked the operating authority of more than 75 unsafe bus and truck companies.  A total of nine motor carriers and four commercial drivers have been declared to be imminent hazards to public safety. A copy of the DND International out-of-service order can be viewed here.

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