Illinois Sen. Wants to Examine How FMCSA Examines Safety

by Jana Ritter - Published: 4/15/2014

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin issued a press release Wednesday asking the Department of Transportation’s inspector general to look into how FMCSA monitors trucking companies with checkered safety records. He is calling for an audit of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration following a deadly crash that killed a state Tollway worker and injured a state trooper last January.

Illinois senator

A driver for DND Transportation, 46-year-old Renato Velasquez, crashed into an Illinois State Police vehicle and a Tollway vehicle after both drivers had pulled over to assist another driver. The FMCSA had ordered Velasquez out of service in February, after determining he had only rested between 3 hours, 30 minutes and 5 hours, 30 minutes during the 26-hour period leading up to the crash. In April they also declared the company an imminent hazard.

But Durbin, who is a member of the Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, is criticizing the FMCSA for failure to follow up sooner with an inquiry into the trucking company which had a BASIC score of 91.8 percent in Unsafe Driving and a 90.2 percent score in Hours of Service Compliance. According to Durbin, those ratings mean more than 90 percent of other motor carriers in the same safety event group have demonstrated better 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 stated. “FMCSA should not wait until a crash occurs before following through on investigations they order.”

A spokeswoman for FMCSA has defended the agency by stating it’s committed to raising the bar for safety in the trucking industry. She also said the agency needs more funding for its investigations. “We are providing safety investigators in Illinois and around the country with enhanced investigation training to dig deeper than ever before and uncover the dangerous patterns of behavior some companies and drivers make every effort to conceal, We have also repeatedly requested additional funding from Congress to hire more personnel to monitor and investigate the 525,000 commercial companies the agency oversees.”

The FMCSA also added that last year in Illinois alone, FMCSA and law enforcement partners investigated more than 750 companies and inspect nearly 68,000 large trucks. The agency said they had to accomplish this “by borrowing staff from other Midwest states.”

The FMCSA’s system for monitoring trucking companies also came under fire in February when the Government Accountability Office published a report that raised questions about whether the current system “is effectively identifying carriers at highest risk for crashing in the future.”