Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) May 21, 2014 – In January, a truck driver’s semitrailer crashed on Interstate 88 in Aurora, causing the death of an Illinois Tollway worker and serious injuries to a state trooper.
Renato Velasquez was charged with operating a commercial vehicle while fatigued or impaired, driving beyond the legal time limits for truckers and with falsifying driving records — all felonies. The driver had worked for 37 straight hours, but his attorney denied that sleepiness was a factor in the crash.
“Fatigue is often a factor in truck accidents,” says Paul Greenberg, a Chicago truck accident attorney not involved in the case. “Unfortunately, because truck accidents are far more likely to cause death or serious injury than other motor vehicle collisions, driver fatigue is an important public health issue.”
According to prosecutors, Velasquez started his shift at approximately 8 a.m. on January 26, loading his truck in preparation for an afternoon haul to Nebraska. Prosecutors further claim that the driver made a stop in Iowa on the return trip to pick up cargo before heading back home. The accident occurred at approximately 9:45 p.m. on January 27.
Authorities said that the driver told them he had slept only three hours during the trip.
Illinois State Trooper Douglas J. Balder had stopped in the right-hand lane and shoulder of I-88 to help with a semitrailer that had broken down. Vincent Petrella, a tollway worker, was on the scene to help direct traffic away from the vehicles. Petrella was killed in the crash, and Balder suffered a broken shoulder, broken ribs and third-degree burns.
According to the truck driver’s attorney, the crash was not caused by sleepiness. He said that another semitrailer in the right-hand lane was blocking the view of the stopped vehicles, and that by the time that truck merged out of the way, there was no time for Velasquez to do the same.
According to police, Velasquez was employed by DND International Inc., a Naperville company. Records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration show that in the last two years, drivers from the company were placed out of service 9.7 percent of the time after random inspections. The national average is 5.51 percent.
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