The results of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation into a gruesome truck crash in January 2014 have just been released, and the board says that the driver of the truck that crashed into a disabled tractor trailer and emergency vehicles on the shoulder of a highway was fatigued and had barely slept in the hours leading up to the crash.
The driver was an employee of a truck company that was already on the NTSB’s list of carriers who were flagged because they did not adhere to federal safety standards limiting hours they allowed their drivers to work without a break. The driver of the disabled truck on the shoulder worked for another carrier that was also on this list of high-risk companies. The report also said the crash was the result of a safety oversight by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), who knew that the trucking companies involved were high-risk carriers and did not take necessary actions to make sure they were operating safely while still allowing them both to be out on the road.
On January 27th 2014 Renato V. Velasquez was driving for DND International, Inc., when he crashed his truck into emergency vehicles that were stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 88 near Naperville, Illinois. They were helping another truck driver who was driving for Michael’s Cartage, another carrier who was on the NTSB’s flagged list. The stopped cars and the surrounding areas were well lit, with emergency lights activated and flashing warning arrow signs in place. According to the report, Velasquez did not attempt to slow down or avoid the parked cars, only braking a second before the first impact.
An Illinois State Police officer was severely injured and the driver of the Highway Emergency Lane Patrol truck was killed. The FMCSA ordered Velasquez off the road after this incident, saying that he could no longer operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. He had slept less than four and a half hours in the 37 hours before the crash. He had also falsified his logbooks. Drivers for the company he worked for had at been involved in several crashes over the last two years, with drivers accruing over 100 violations in that time period as well.
The NTSB is recommending that the FMCSA warn high-risk carriers, who have not been compliant with safety rules or who have low safety scores, that they will be placed on a list for mandatory compliance reviews. It is also recommended that the FMCSA alert their insurance companies about their high-risk status. Other recommendations include suspending a carrier’s ability to move freight when they have five or more intervention alerts, this many alerts tells the administration the carrier has clearly not taken any steps to comply with safety regulations. They can be reinstated when they have proved to the administration that they have corrected safety hazards and intend to remain safe in the future. Other recommendations for the FMCSA can be found here.