Federal regulations exist to prevent truck accidents – like the fiery crash that killed an Illinois Tollway worker and seriously injured an Illinois State Trooper in January – but unfortunately, safety measures are not always followed.
The January crash occurred on Interstate 88 in Aurora, Illinois when truck driver Renato Velasquez crashed into two stopped vehicles. Prosecutors allege that the truck driver slept only three and a half hours from Sunday morning to Monday night, while making on a trip from Illinois to Nebraska, then to Iowa and back again. Prosecutors also claim that Velasquez altered driving logs to make it appear that he had rested longer than he had.
The truck driver faces felony charges, including operating a commercial vehicle while impaired or fatigued, falsifying records and driving beyond federal time limits.
There are three hours-of-service limits that truck drivers must follow: an on-duty limit of 14 hours, a driving limit of 11 hours and a 60/70 hour duty limit.
Drivers are only permitted 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time after an off-duty period of 10 consecutive hours. The on-duty period begins when the driver starts any kind of work, including non-driving work. Lunch breaks and rest periods do not restart the 14-hour period. After the 14-hour limit is reached, the driver may not drive until after another 10-hour off-duty period.
In addition to the 14-hour on-duty limit, drivers may only drive for up to 11 total hours before taking another 10-hour off-duty period.
Drivers also must follow one of two weekly limits. Driving is not permitted after 60 duty hours during a seven-day period or after 70 hours during an eight-day period. These limits can be “restarted” after 34 consecutive hours off duty.
These regulations are set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In order to ensure compliance with the regulations, both truck drivers and the companies for whom they work are required to keep records that can be reviewed by authorities.
Velasquez is accused of violating both the 11-hour limit and the 14-hour limit.
The executive director of the Illinois Trucking Association said that the group supports the limits, and that keeping fatigued truck drivers off the road helps prevent accidents.
Another industry official said that trucking companies or their drivers may feel temptation or pressure to violate the limits in order to make more money. However, he said, in the long run, ignoring the regulations is a poor economic strategy. In addition to the potential for injury and death, truck accidents can cause insurance companies’ insurance costs to rise, and violation of the limits can cause a trucker’s employment to be terminated.