The United States Department of Transportation declared a Chicago-area truck driver an "imminent hazard to public safety" Tuesday, because of his role in a fiery crash which left a tollway worker dead two weeks ago.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered Renato Velasquez not to operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce, noting that prior to the crash Velasquez violated hours-of-service rules and falsified his logbooks, "with the intent of concealing the number of hours he worked".
Tollway worker Vincent Petrella died in the accident, when Velasquez crashed into the worker's truck and a parked Illinois State Police cruiser near Eola Road on I-88. Petrella and trooper Douglas Balder had stopped to aid a stalled semi-truck driver. The trooper was critically injured.
"Safety for all travelers is our highest priority," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement announcing the sanctions against Velasquez. "Willfully wreckless commercial drivers that jeopardize the safety of everyone on our highways and roads will not be tolerated."
Investigators said Velasquez tried to conceal the fact that in dozens of hours he had driven a thousand miles, from Hanover Park, to Elkhorn, Nebraska, then to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and back to suburban Chicago, all with only 3 and a half to 5-1/2 hours of rest.
Federal law prohibits over-the-road truckers from driving more than 11 hours in a shift, or remaining on duty after 14 continuous hours of work.
"This heart-breaking and senseless crash has forever changed the lives of many families," FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said in a statement. "Commercial drivers that knowingly jeopardize innocent lives by violating safety standards and attempt to cover up their illegal behavior should have no doubt that we will vigorously enforce all federal safety regulations to the fullest extent possible by law."
Velasquez was charged with falsifying log books, operating a commercial vehicle while ill or fatigued, and driving beyond the 11 and 14 hour driving limits. All are class four felonies.