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Inadequate oversight blamed in deadly Illinois highway crash

CHICAGO – Failed safety oversight was partly to blame for a deadly crash near Chicago in which a truck driver for a company already flagged as high-risk fell asleep and plowed into emergency vehicles, a federal accident investigations board said. The panel urged the government to turn to the insurance industry for help.

The January 2014 crash on Interstate 88 near Naperville, Illinois, killed a tollway worker and seriously injured a state trooper whose patrol car was engulfed in flames. The trucker had slept less than 4 1/2 hours in the 37 hours before the crash, in violation of regulations. Investigators found he routinely falsified logbook entries to hide hours-of-service violations.

Although regulators had classified the Illinois company, DND International Inc., as high-risk, based on a lengthy record of problems, they failed to make the carrier comply with rules, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday in Washington. It wasn’t until two months after the crash that the regulatory agency, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, declared the company an “imminent hazard” and ordered it to shut down. Even then, the company was able to successfully appeal and stay on the road.

It took an insurance company cancelling coverage to put the carrier out of operation.

The safety board recommended that regulators automatically notify insurers when a company is labeled high-risk in hopes that might increase rates and bring painful financial pressure on carriers to comply with rules to prevent dangerous driver fatigue.

“Fatigue in transportation kills,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said. “Although such unsafe trucking companies are a small minority of operators, they are not rare — to the dismay of both the driving public and trucking companies that are more diligent about ensuring their safety.”

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration spokesman Duane DeBruyne said the agency would co-operate with NTSB and address the recommendations.