According to the Chicago Tribune, on Wednesday, a judge overturned an FMCSA OOS, stating that DND International can put its trucks back on the road.
The judge’s decision overturned an April 3, FMCSA order that placed the Illinois carrier out of service, declaring the company “an imminent hazard to public safety.”
The shutdown order followed a deadly crash that occurred on January 27, 2014, that left an Illinois Tollway worker dead and severely injured an Illinois State trooper.
On January 27, 2014, 39-year-old Tollway worker Vincent Petrella and trooper Douglas Balder were stopped on the shoulder of I-88, helping a truck driver who was parked in the emergency lane. [pullquote align=”right”]“Federal rules limiting the hours that commercial truck and bus drivers can be on the job serve to protect everyone traveling on our highways and roads,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Companies that sidestep and disregard these regulations and needlessly expose the motoring public to harm will not be allowed to operate.”[/pullquote]
Flashing lights from Balder’s vehicle warned other drivers away.
DND International driver Renato V. Velasquez, 46, was driving behind another truck. As the two trucks approached the trooper’s car, the truck ahead of Velasquez moved out of the left lane. Velasquez did not.
Velasquez’s truck veered out of his lane and slammed into the trooper’s car.
Balder’s vehicle exploded into flames. The severely injured trooper managed to crawl from his vehicle. Sadly, Petrella died at the scene.
Velasquez suffered minor injuries and the other driver was not injured.
FMCSA investigators found that during a period of 26-hours, Velasquez operated a tractor-trailer for approximately 1,000 miles and only rested 3-1/2 to 5-1/2 hours.
Following the fatal crash, the FMCSA launched an investigation into the driver responsible for the crash and into the company that employed the driver.
“After the horrible tragedy on I-88 earlier this year, I asked for a thorough investigation of DND International so that we could get to the bottom of the incident,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (Ill.). “The investigation confirmed my suspicions that the problems with this trucking company are putting travelers at risk every day. I am happy that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration took swift action to take these trucks off the road. This type of strong and vigorous oversight must continue in order to make certain we are doing everything possible to prevent this kind of dangerous driving behavior.”
According to the FMCSA, ”FMCSA investigators found the carrier had committed widespread, serious violations of federal regulations that protect the safety of the motoring public. DND International’s compliance with federal safety regulations has been the focus of an intensive,” the FMCSA press release alleged.
“Federal rules limiting the hours that commercial truck and bus drivers can be on the job serve to protect everyone traveling on our highways and roads,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Companies that sidestep and disregard these regulations and needlessly expose the motoring public to harm will not be allowed to operate.”
While comparing driver logs with toll receipts, investigators found that in seven instances, drivers falsified their logs.
“The constant focus of every driver, particularly operators of very large commercial vehicles, must be on safety,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Companies and commercial drivers that knowingly jeopardize public safety by disregarding common-sense regulations that prevent driver fatigue will not be tolerated and will be banned from continuing their dangerous and illegal behavior.”
DND appealed the out-of-service order, and after a 4-day hearing, Judge Richard C. Goodwin ruled that DND could immediately resume business.
A judge did not agree with the FMCSA’s findings and overturned the FMCSA’s OOS order.
“The judge ruled that none of the allegations in the imminent hazard order (that shut DND down) was supported by the evidence,” DND International Attorney David LaPorte told the Chicago Tribune. “Our trucks will get back on the road, and we remain committed to implementing the electronic logs.”
At the time of the FMCSA investigation, DND was in the process of installing electronic logs.
In response to the judge’s decision, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued the following statement, “FMCSA investigators uncovered a dangerous pattern of behavior that the company and their drivers made every effort to conceal. Keeping this company off-the-road is in the best interest of public safety and we will appeal this initial decision.”