Judge rescinds "imminent hazard" ruling against DND Transportation

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Thursday, April 17, 2014

An Illinois trucking company can get back on the road after an imminent hazard order against the business was rescinded by an administrative judge.

DND Transportation of Naperville, Ill., appealed the out-of-service ordered issued against it by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on April 1, contending that the company did not have unsafe practices.

Administrative law judge Richard C. Goodwin used the phrase “death sentence” when describing how the enforcement action could negatively affect the trucking company. He said FMCSA investigators failed to meet their burden of proof that the company itself was operating under unsafe conditions.

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.

FMCSA issued an imminent hazard order against DND Transportation on April 1. FMCSA field administrator Darin Jones, who signed and approved the issuance of the order, was called to testify during the four-day hearing. The judge’s ruling notes that Jones’ testimony was given “limited weight” because Jones “tended to be indirect in his responses to questions on cross-examination.” The judge’s ruling also stated Jones was “evasive,” “rambling,” and at times gave responses that contradicted the FMCSA’s own allegations.

Goodwin also noted that after the crash, DND Transportation entered into a contract to outfit its fleet with EOBRs to help track and monitor drivers’ hours of service.

The judge also stated that the review of the case should have been completed 10 days from the issuance of the imminent hazard order (April 1). He ruled that the order must be rescinded because the review time violated DND’s rights of due process.

The FMCSA plans to appeal the decision, according to a statement from spokeswoman Marissa Padilla.

“FMCSA investigators uncovered a dangerous pattern of behavior that the company and their drivers made every effort to conceal,” the statement reads. “Keeping this company off the road is in the best interest of public safety and we will appeal this initial decision.”

Judge Goodwin’s full decision is available here.

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