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Feds pull Naperville firm’s trucks off road after fatal tollway crash

Updated: April 2, 2014 5:45PM



Federal regulators ordered a Naperville trucking company’s vehicles off the road this week, claiming its failure to stop its drivers from falsifying work records was a key factor in a “catastrophic” crash that killed an Illinois Tollway worker and seriously injured a state trooper earlier this year.

DND International Inc. is an “imminent hazard to public safety” and “does not have adequate safety management practices in place” to make sure its drivers are submitting accurate records, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

David LaPorte, DND’s attorney, said the order is “unfair.”

Renato V. Velasquez, a 46-year-old truck driver from Hanover Park, was criminally charged in the Jan. 27 crash on Interstate 88 that killed tollway worker Vincent Petrella and seriously wounded Illinois State Trooper Douglas J. Balder.

Petrella was helping a disabled truck on the eastbound side of I-88 near Eola Road, and Balder also had stopped at the scene, when a truck driven by Velasquez crashed into their parked vehicles. Federal officials say Velasquez was working for DND at the time.

Velasquez was soon charged with operating a commercial motor vehicle while impaired or fatigued, making a false report of a record and duty status, and driving beyond the 14- and 11-hour rules, according to Illinois State Police.

DuPage County prosecutors allege Velasquez had been working for 37 straight hours before the crash. A federal investigation revealed Velasquez falsified his records of duty status four out of the seven days leading up to the crash, according to the FMCSA.

LaPorte said DND has since purchased the “gold-standard” in electronic logbooks for 100 percent of its fleet — making it more difficult for drivers to falsify records. Installation began Wednesday and will be finished as soon as possible with training planned for Friday, he said.

The federal order went into effect immediately. It says any movement of DND’s commercial vehicles must be accomplished only by towing, but LaPorte said the company was given permission to drive vehicles that had been in use back to Chicago.

“After the horrible tragedy on I-88 earlier this year, I asked for a thorough investigation of DND International so that we could get to the bottom of the incident,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (Ill).

“The investigation confirmed my suspicions that the problems with this trucking company are putting travelers at risk every day,” he added. “I am happy that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration took swift action to take these trucks off the road. This type of strong and vigorous oversight must continue in order to make certain we are doing everything possible to prevent this kind of dangerous driving behavior.”

Email: jseidel@suntimes.com

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