NTSB found that the driver from the striking DND International tractor trailer was fatigued, that DND failed to provide oversight and that FMCSA failed to discipline the company because of a lack of investigators and procedural delays that can last up to three years.
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A highway emergency employee died and a state trooper was injured during a fire as they responded to the Jan. 27, 2014, crash on Interstate 88 just west of Chicago. Both drivers also were injured. The DND driver is serving a three-year prison term. DND has since ceased operations because it declined to pay its costly post-crash insurance premiums.
“The driver of the DND truck did not apply the brakes until one second before the crash,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said at the start of the hearing. “He had slept less than four hours out of the last 37 hours leading up to the crash and admitted he had fallen asleep at the wheel. … DND enabled this behavior. The driver was falsifying his logs books, and DND was not overseeing the books.”
The driver of the disabled Michael’s Cartage combination vehicle that was struck also was found to have falsified his logbook and to have grossly violated hours-of-service rules. He told investigators that he had pulled onto the right shoulder when actually he was in the far right lane.
NTSB’s Michael Fox found that while DND willfully ignored FMCSA’s regulations and fostered “a safety culture that was very odd … one of the worst carriers [I’ve ever investigated],” Michael’s Cartage, which remains in business, was guilty of “sloppy paperwork.”
As far as FMCSA’s role is concerned, Robert Molloy, acting director of NTSB’s Office of Highway Safety, said, “The crash was caused by a safety issue … that had been identified by FMCSA. [However], FMCSA oversight was not effective … in getting these two carriers … to improve their safety programs.”
The DND driver had falsified his logs 36.9% of the time during the six months ending with the crash. The Michael’s Cartage driver had a 54.4% falsification rate during the same period and had an invalid CDL. His truck had unsafe brakes, tires and lights.
According to NTSB, even with the help of state investigators, FMCSA was only able to perform compliance reviews of just 2.8% of the more than 10.6 million trucks operated by the nation’s 539,000-plus carriers in fiscal 2014.
NTSB added that FMCSA “is making progress in improving its oversight” thanks to proposed rules such as electronic logging data and safety fitness determination. NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said that ELDs will be “a game-changer.”