Following a deadly crash in January that killed an Illinois Tollway worker and injured a state trooper, senator Dick Durbin (D) issued a press release April 9 asking the Department of Transportation’s inspector general to conduct an audit of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency that monitors trucking companies with poor safety records.

Trucker Fatigue Causes Crash

On January 27, 2014, a driver for DND Transportation crashed into an Illinois State Police vehicle and a Tollway vehicle after both drivers had pulled over to assist another driver. FMCSA determined that the driver in the crash had been on the road for more than 30 hours with little to no sleep, in violation of federal law. Finally, on April 3, FMCSA ordered the driver out of service and declared the company an imminent hazard.

FMCSA Failed to Follow Up on DND’s Low Safety Rating

Prior to the accident, FMCSA had failed to follow up with an inquiry into DND Transportation, which had a low safety rating for Unsafe Driving and Hours of Service Compliance. “Earlier intervention and follow-through by FMCSA could have avoided this tragedy and we need a hard look into whether FMCSA is taking the proper steps to keep these accidents waiting to happen off the road,” Durbin said. “FMCSA should not wait until a crash occurs before following through on investigations they order.”

2013 Trucking Hours of Service Ruling

After a decade of litigation against the FMCSA by safety advocates, drivers, and plaintiff lawyers, in 2013 the agency ruled that drivers can only work 70 hours a week with one 30 minute break every 8 hours and a 34 hour break between work weeks. Sleep research indicates that working long hours daily and weekly causes chronic fatigue, slow reaction times, and reduced ability to assess situations, including a driver’s own fatigue levels.

A February report by the Government Accountability Office raised questions about whether FMCSA’s current system “is effectively identifying carriers at highest risk for crashing in the future, and plans to undertake a review of FMCSA’s investigative practices.