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Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on July 24th, 2014,
by Zane Cagle

Truck Driver Charged in Deadly I-55 Illinois Truck Crash

Posted on July 24th, 2014 by Zane Cagle

[cbc_playlist videos=”10364″]A deadly crash on Interstate 55 this last Monday near Channahon, Illinois took the lives of at least four victims. According to authorities, a semi-truck trailer driven by a 51 year old Leesburg, Indiana man was allegedly speeding in the northbound lanes of I-55 and abruptly changed lanes in a construction zone near Arsenal Road, causing a chain reaction of two wrecks beginning around 2:30 p.m. The truck crushed two cars and a van.

The first crash happened in northbound lanes of Interstate 55 near Arsenal Road around 2:30 p.m.  “The three vehicles that were struck by the semi-truck were stopped in traffic, along with other vehicles in front, and the truck driver that was at the rear was passing other vehicles in the left lane, and abruptly made a lane change to the right, and then struck the rear of the vehicles pushing them all together in the crash, ” said State Police Commander Randy Ness.

Driver Charged for Falsifying Driver Logs

The 51 year-old semi-truck driver has been charged with falsified his logbooks and driving approximately 12 hours before causing the wreck that killed the four people according to the Illinois State Police. The driver appeared for a bond hearing on Tuesday afternoon at the Will County Courthouse where prosecutors said he was driving at least 15 mph faster than the posted construction zone speed limit at the time of the crash, and there was no evidence that he applied the brakes before the crash, although is not clear if he fell asleep at the wheel. Prosecutors said investigators have determined that he falsified his log books to show he’d started driving at 6 a.m. on Monday, when he’d actually started driving at 2:30 a.m., and had been on the road approximately 12 hours at the time of the crash.

According to records, the semi-truck driver has received 12 traffic citations since 1991, including speeding tickets.  A background check showed he operates a single-driver operation, based in Leesburg, Indiana. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration inspected his truck once in the last two years and found no issues.  Indiana State Police said there have been no accidents involving his truck in the past 10 years.

Five People Killed and Three Others Injured

In addition to the three women and the girl that were killed, at least three other people were injured in the crash.  About 20 minutes later after that wreck, two semi-trailer trucks collided in the southbound lanes of I-55 about three miles away. Both drivers were taken to hospitals were one later died.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration seeking new rule

Hours-of-Service requirements or HOS are time requirements instituted by the FMCSA in order to reduce the number of truck related crashes.  Driving long hours has long been a part of the job of a truck driver, but driving too long without rest is a danger to everyone on the highway including the truck driver.  Hours of service logs are generally kept by the driver and can be kept in paper form.  The FMCSA is proposing a new rule that would require all trucks to have electronic logging devices.

Federal rules limit truck drivers from driving more than 11 of the 14 consecutive hours they work. They are required to take a ten-hour break before driving again.  The goal is to prevent accidents caused by fatigue which may have played a role in the tragic accident that killed four. Among charges against the driver, falsifying his log books is one of the several.

When State Police pull trucks over for routine safety inspections, they review the driver’s hours on the road, typically written in paper log books.  The issue is, paper log books can easily be falsified. “The electronic logging device is hooked to the engine. It’s actually hooked to the truck. It’s going to eliminate driver error or it’s going to eliminate the ability to falsify a log book,” said State Police Master Sergeant Todd Armstrong.

Some trucking companies already use electronic log books. Hopefully, this new rule will be instituted by the beginning of next year and gives companies time to equip their trucks and train their drivers on the new device.

Hours of Service

In the last few months, injuries and deaths sustained in semi-truck accidents has been greatly publicized. Specifically, the rear-end accident that severely injured comedian, Tracy Morgan and killed comedian James McNair on June 7, 2014. In the crash, two others were also injured when the truck driver allegedly hit the limousine van Morgan was riding in after allegedly falling asleep at the wheel. Currently, Morgan has filed suit against the company that employed the truck driver.  There have been several accidents in the last few months that have been similar in nature in that the semi-drivers have possibly caused the crash due to fatigue and too many hours of service (driving time) without breaks.  These accidents have shed light on the need for more accurate driver time logging systems and more monitoring for safety.  These deaths and injuries are extra tragic as they may have been prevented. When a semi-truck driver chooses to drive while fatigued, the action can impact many on the roadways. As semi-trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, they become lethal when they collide with other vehicles.

In some jobs, working past the point of fatigue is not life-threatening.  When I work fatigued, my biggest side effect is poor writing and a lot of proofing the next day, however, in some vocations, working fatigued and loss of attention can be devastating.  Surgeons operating for too many hours often make mistakes that can be life threatening and certainly, truck drivers who travel at 60-80 miles per hour down an interstate cannot afford to be inattentive.  When a vehicle can travel the length of football field in less than a minute—just a few seconds of inattention can cause serious injuries and death.

If you have been in a truck accident

Truck collisions are usually very different than automobile crashes in damage and injuries.   I am encouraged the FMCSA is looking at new rules to assist truck drivers and transportation companies in keeping more accurate hours of service and hopefully, holding them accountable for more rested drivers. When you see the devastation created by a truck collision, you support increased safety measures so the same kind of crashes can be reduced.  Like anyone else, truck drivers try to work as much as possible as often meeting a deadline impacts their rate of pay so we can all understand the desire of a driver to keep pushing on, but pushing on when it jeopardizes one’s safety and the safety of others is where we must draw the line. Possibly, the transportation industry needs to be thoroughly examined to see why drivers are being pushed or pushing themselves to drive while fatigued.  Driving fatigued is a problem whether the driver is self-employed or employed through a transportation company. The FMCSA rules are there to reduce traffic crashes that result in injuries and needless deaths.

If you or a loved one has been in a truck collision in Missouri or Illinois, the process of seeking compensation can be complicated.  Commercial carriers must carry a certain amount of insurance, however, if you have been a victim in such a crash, the last thing you have time to do is monitor an investigation, seek witness statements and negotiate with the insurance companies.  Consult an expert trucking accident attorney and insure that you have a professional looking out for your best interests. Our attorneys offer free consultations and are available seven days a week, toll free (800)685-3302 and locally (314) 276-1681.