A week after praising the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for acting swiftly to shut down DND International (USDOT No. 1434005) as an imminent hazard, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) is calling on the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General to audit FMCSA’s oversight of trucking companies with a history of violations. Durbin’s request was prompted by a report in the Chicago Tribune that found FMCSA had ordered an investigation into the Napierville, IL-based DND in August 2013 but did not start it until after a Jan. 27 crash that killed an Illinois Tollway worker and seriously injured an Illinois State Police trooper.
On April 1, FMCSA (FMCSA) declared the 42-truck DND International an imminent hazard and ordered it to shut down. The DND driver, who has been charged with multiple felony violations in connection with the crash, was declared an imminent hazard in February after investigators concluded that he had rested for less than six hours during a 26-hour period before the Jan. 27 crash.
During the second phase of the investigation into the operations of DND International, FMCSA investigators compared toll transaction data with a sample of hours-of-service records from seven drivers. In all seven instances, drivers had falsified their records, revealing “an unmistakable, dangerous pattern of serious falsifications,” FMCSA said in its April 2 announcement of the imminent action order.
The April 2 FMCSA press release included comments from Durbin. “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,” Durbin said. “The investigation confirmed my suspicions that the problems with this trucking company are putting travelers at risk every day. 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.”
The April 9 report in the Chicago Tribune changed Durbin’s tune regarding FMCSA.
“We owe it to the families of these men to fully review the investigative practices of FMCSA to ensure we are not missing opportunities to take dangerous drivers or motor carriers off the road before it is too late,” Durbin said in an April 9 letter to DOT Inspector General Calvin Scovel.
Durbin told Scovel that the Tribune report “found a troubling example of FMCSA ordering, but never actually launching, an investigation into an Illinois motor carrier with a long history of violating safety rules.” Earlier intervention and follow-through by FMCSA could have prevented the Jan. 27 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 said the DOT IG should review FMCSA’s practices to ensure motor carriers flagged for investigation are being investigated in a timely manner and whether or not the type of investigations FMCSA conducts are adequate enough to catch violations. He cited the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation in November that DOT audit FMCSA’s use of focused reviews for carriers with a history of violations.