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Durbin calls for feds to investigate I-88 crash

Thursday, January 30, 2014

There are calls for an expanded federal investigation of whether trucking companies routinely break safety laws and cause serious accidents.

A letter from Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to federal officials follows Monday's deadly truck accident on I-88.

The worst-kept secret in the trucking business has been that some drivers falsify time logs so they can work longer hours than the law allows. Authorities have charged a suburban truck driver with doing just that earlier this week and say his sleep-deprived state caused the I-88 accident that killed a tollway worker and seriously hurt a state trooper.

Senator Dick Durbin called on federal motor carrier safety officials to open an expansive investigation.

"Was this truck driver on the road for 36 hours? If he was, it's an outrage," Durbin said.

Prosecutors charge that trucker Renato Velasquez was on the road that long with only a couple hours sleep before he got into this accident on I-88. His tractor-trailer careened into a state trooper and killing a state highway worker. Velasquez, 46, from Hanover Park, faces four felonies, including one charge that he rigged his time books to avoid federal rest rules.

"Did the company know about it? Were they keeping the right records that reflect that kind of activity? They can be held responsible for it as well," Durbin said.

Federal inspectors already went through records at the company, DND International of Naperville. The firm's owner said they did nothing wrong.

"You can't be in the truck with the drivers, so as much as we can do, we control them," said owner Natasha Dimitrievski. "I'm not there, in there, so I don't know what they do. Only thing I know, my drivers logs that I receive. It's all good."

Whether it's all good there and at other companies should be the subject of a wider federal investigation, according to Durbin.

"If they find wrongdoing, it's going to be a message to every other motor carrier, every trucking company that they better be careful, they better follow the law, if they run the risk of this terrible accident they can pay a heavy price," Durbin said.

The driver in the I-88 wreck is free on $150,000 bond. He has not spoken publicly, but his attorney said that all the talk of driving 36 hours straight, not enough sleep and faking the time books are all just allegations.

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