Cause of Fiery 2014 Crash That Killed State Trooper Was Likely Driver’s Lack of Sleep: NTSB

Trucker Renato Velasquez admitted falling asleep at the wheel, slamming into the stopped vehicles, killing tollway worker Vincent Petrella, and seriously injuring the trooper, Douglas Balder

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled Tuesday that the probable cause of a fiery 2014 accident on I-88 was a driver’s failure to get adequate sleep.

But the safety agency also faulted that driver’s company, DND International, for failing to adequately police its drivers. And they singled out a sister agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, for inadequate oversight over the trucking industry.

The accident occurred January 27, 2014, on a section of the East-West Tollway near Naperville. A truck, operated by a different company, Michael’s Cartage, had stalled on the roadway and a tollway worker and State Trooper were rendering aid.

Trucker Renato Velasquez admitted falling asleep at the wheel, slamming into the stopped vehicles, killing tollway worker Vincent Petrella, and seriously injuring the trooper, Douglas Balder.

“The driver of the DND truck did not apply the brakes until one second before the crash,” said NTSB chairman Christopher Hart. “He had slept less than 4 and a half hours out of the last 37 hours leading up to the crash.”

The agency found that Velasquez had falsified 55 of 149 logs during the prior six months, a falsification rate of 37%. And investigators said when they pulled the logs of other DND drivers, they found similar fraud.

“It was evident that DND management failed to monitor their drivers’ compliance,” the agency’s Michael Fox told the board. “I would classify DND as one of the worst carriers I’ve ever experienced in my career.”

The company’s shortcomings were so egregious they had been cited by the FMCSA as a “high risk carrier”. But in a scathing report, the NTSB noted that despite years of data, the agency had done nothing to take them off the road. And the company operating the other truck, Michael’s Cartage, had a similar history of noncompliance.

Indeed, investigators said they found that the Michael’s driver had an invalid CDL, and a history of logbook violations so egregious that he was driving on a false log at the time of the crash. His truck was in such bad condition, inspectors determined it should not have even been on the road.

“Both of the companies had long histories of noncompliance,” investigator Jennifer Morrison told the board. “Yet both carriers continued to operate up to this fatal crash.”

Board Member Robert Sumwalt angrily questioned why Michael’s Cartage was not being held more accountable for what had happened, citing their own driver’s dubious history.

“This is not just somebody who happened to be there,” he said. “He disobeyed the law—and led to the circumstances surrounding that collision.”

NTSB investigators conceded that the FMCSA is a relatively small agency, charged with policing an immense industry. The agency’s 369 investigators are responsible for some 539,000 carriers, 10.6 million trucks, 764,000 buses, and 5.6 million drivers.

Still, staffers said the FMCSA should more effectively utilize the enforcement tools it had been given. And they urged the agency to share data on poor performing companies with their insurance carriers.
The National Transportation Safety Board ruled Tuesday that the probable cause of a fiery 2014 accident on I-88 was a driver’s failure to get adequate sleep.

But the safety agency also faulted that driver’s company, DND International, for failing to adequately police its drivers. And they singled out a sister agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, for inadequate oversight over the trucking industry.

The accident occurred January 27, 2014, on a section of the East-West Tollway near Naperville. A truck, operated by a different company, Michael’s Cartage, had stalled on the roadway and a tollway worker and State Trooper were rendering aid.

Trucker Renato Velasquez admitted falling asleep at the wheel, slamming into the stopped vehicles, killing tollway worker Vincent Petrella, and seriously injuring the trooper, Douglas Balder.

“The driver of the DND truck did not apply the brakes until one second before the crash,” said NTSB chairman Christopher Hart. “He had slept less than 4 and a half hours out of the last 37 hours leading up to the crash.”

The agency found that Velasquez had falsified 55 of 149 logs during the prior six months, a falsification rate of 37%. And investigators said when they pulled the logs of other DND drivers, they found similar fraud.

“It was evident that DND management failed to monitor their drivers’ compliance,” the agency’s Michael Fox told the board. “I would classify DND as one of the worst carriers I’ve ever experienced in my career.”

The company’s shortcomings were so egregious they had been cited by the FMCSA as a “high risk carrier”. But in a scathing report, the NTSB noted that despite years of data, the agency had done nothing to take them off the road. And the company operating the other truck, Michael’s Cartage, had a similar history of noncompliance.

Indeed, investigators said they found that the Michael’s driver had an invalid CDL, and a history of logbook violations so egregious that he was driving on a false log at the time of the crash. His truck was in such bad condition, inspectors determined it should not have even been on the road.

“Both of the companies had long histories of noncompliance,” investigator Jennifer Morrison told the board. “Yet both carriers continued to operate up to this fatal crash.”

Indeed, Board Member Robert Sumwalt angrily questioned why Michael’s Cartage was not being held more accountable for what had happened, citing their own driver’s dubious history.

“This is not just somebody who happened to be there,” he said. “He disobeyed the law—and led to the circumstances surrounding that collision.”

NTSB investigators conceded that the FMCSA is a relatively small agency, charged with policing an immense industry. The agency’s 369 investigators are responsible for some 539,000 carriers, 10.6 million trucks, 764,000 buses, and 5.6 million drivers.

Still, staffers said the FMCSA should more effectively utilize the enforcement tools it had been given. And they urged the agency to share data on poor performing companies with their insurance carriers.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Spokesman Duane DeBruyne said the Agency would fully cooperate, and would continue to work diligently with the NTSB in addressing the latest safety recommendations.

DND is not currently operating, but only ceased when its insurance rates were hiked.

“They still have an active DOT number,” Fox noted. “If they can get the money together for their insurance, they could be on the road today.”

DND is not currently operating, but only ceased when its insurance rates were hiked.

“They still have an active DOT number,” Fox noted. “If they can get the money together for their insurance, they could be on the road today.”

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