Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on March 3rd, 2014,
by Zane Cagle

Illinois Semi-Truck Driver Pleads Innocent in Interstate 88 Fatal Crash

Posted on March 3rd, 2014 by Zane Cagle

file0001645006196Today, a 46 year old Hanover Park man pled innocent to charges related to the January semi-truck crash that killed a toll way worker and seriously injured an Illinois state trooper.

We have been following the updates from this I-88 crash story as the investigation and resulting findings hopefully will have a positive impact on all Illinois trucking companies.

The truck driver is facing numerous charges including operating a commercial motor vehicle while fatigued or impaired, driving beyond the 14-hour rule and the 11-hour rule, and making false report of record and duty status. In addition, he is charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and failure to yield to stationary emergency vehicles.

On January 27, 2014, at about 9:30 p.m. an Illinois state trooper and an I-88 toll way worker were assisting a disabled semi-truck along side eastbound Interstate 88 near Eola Road when their vehicles were struck by a semi-truck.  When the crash occurred, both men were sitting inside their respective vehicles which had flashing emergency lights.

Prosecutors say the charged truck driver had allegedly slept for only 3 1/2 hours during a 37 1/2 hour shift in which he traveled through Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa before returning to the Chicago area.

Two Federal Agencies Joined I-88 Crash Investigation

Two federal agencies have joined the investigation into the January 27th crash. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration joined the investigation almost immediately following the crash. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin called for the investigation and to determine if the charged truck driver’s employer, a Naperville-based transportation company, broke any rules by letting the driver be on the road too long

“We establish the standards for how long truck drivers can be on the road. We require trucking companies and others to keep records so that we can verify the logs of the drivers against the requirements of federal law”, said Durbin. Federal regulations require that a truck driver who spends more than 11 hours behind the wheel during any 14-hour shift must take a 10-hour break.  Prosecutors allege the Hanover driver falsified his logs to indicate he was in compliance.

A spokesman for the FMCSA Keith Holloway, said “We’re looking at safety issues surrounding the accident.”  The investigation is expected to take several months in order to examine the factors causing the accident and determine if any safety recommendations need to be made.  However, the FMCSA has started a comprehensive review of the trucking company to determine if the company was complying with all federal motor carrier safety regulations.  Those findings will be combined with the investigation from the NTSB review. In early comments made by the trucking company, a spokesperson said they had been compliant with driving logs, however, they offered no comment in recent articles.

As well, the Illinois State Department of Transportation is lending technical assistance as needed in the full investigation of the crash. The Illinois Senator Durbin, said he is going to look into how frequently the FMSCA conducts random inspections of business records.  “The point is to not only get to the bottom of it and understand what happened out on I-88, but also to serve fair notice on a lot of other companies that we take this seriously. We’re going to investigate it. We’re going to enforce it”.

Illinois Governor Recognizes Victims as Heroes

Currently, the Illinois state trooper continues to be hospitalized in an attempt to recover from his serious injuries.  And the toll way worker, a 39-year old Wheeling man was remembered by his family and friends as a family man who was devoted to his family. Governor Pat Quinn called the Wheeling man a hero. “Both he and the injured State Trooper were doing heroic work—assisting their fellow citizens in an emergency. Both men were committed to keeping our roads safe and to helping those in need”.

In the examination of hours of service (HOS), it is hoped that trucking companies and truck drivers across the state of Illinois will have a raised awareness about how dangerous driving fatigued can be for truck drivers and fellow interstate travelers. Often, truck drivers are put in bad situations by trying to meet the delivery demands of their employers and customers.  Like all of us, truck drivers try to cram work into their schedules as making deliveries on-time is a requirement for their salary and bonuses.  Trucking companies and customers receiving the goods have to be aware of any unreasonable demands made on truck drivers.  We all want to assume that a truck driver will pull over if he/she is fatigued and unsafe, but how many of us really practice what we preach with regard to cutting back on work demands?  And what if our employer doesn’t consider fatigue as a factor in safety? Tragically, in some jobs, working fatigued can be a fatal mistake.  Truck drivers are held to a higher standard because they are often driving vehicles that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.  When a vehicle of that size strikes another vehicle sitting, they are essentially driving through the other vehicle especially if they are passenger vehicles. Trucking companies must consider fatigue and safety of their drivers, period.  Safety for drivers and the public must be one of their top priorities.

Trucking companies specifically must enforce hours of service rules.  Today, many trucks have monitoring systems that many think of as “black boxes” such as on airplanes and trains.  It can be recorded the hours of driving and many of the vehicle movements such as miles traveled, hours of operation and braking.  Whether or not this particular truck had that monitoring system has not yet been revealed.

I will be watching the investigation of this case because I hope that it has a positive impact on trucking companies and what they require of their drivers.  As a trucking accident attorney in Illinois, I have represented several seriously injured victims of trucking accidents as well as some families who have lost loved ones.  Interstate trucking accidents are almost always serious accidents and often preventable. Fatigued truck drivers who are driving past their hours of service are a serious threat to other people on highways and interstates. If this investigation results in a reduction of serious truck accidents, fewer injuries and more saved lives, then it is well worth the months of investigation.  In order to honor the memory of the Wheeling man killed and the State Trooper who was injured, a thorough investigation and safety review is critical.

If you have been injured in a trucking accident or if you have lost a loved one, you will need legal representation.  While criminal charges have been filed against the truck driver, they are only allegations and he is innocent until proven guilty. However, even if a driver is proven guilty, criminal convictions do not necessarily compensate the victims.  Most often, a third party personal injury claim or a wrongful death claim must be filed in order for responsible parties to pay compensation.  It is a long process and generally, a complicated process that definitely requires a skilled personal injury attorney and a thorough investigation. If you are unsure if you need legal representation, we are available seven days a week, toll free (314) 276-1681 or locally (314) 276-1681

Sources:

Trucker charged in fatal crash pleads innocent. Daily Herald 3/3/14

Sanchez, R. Two federal agencies join probe of I-88 crash: Whether truck companies are following regulations questioned.  Daily Herald. 1/30/14