The poor record of the trucker involved in last month's tragic Amtrak crash has led to calls from Illinois leaders to tighten commercial truck licensing procedures in the state.
Following the derailment, which killed 11 people, newspapers documented the driver's numerous traffic violations and the state's lax standards. A joint project by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana, published Thursday, found areas in state law where truck licensing standards could be strengthened. Illinois is one of only 13 states that do not record crash information on the driving records of truckers or other motorists.
Secretary of State Jesse White launched truck safety hearings Friday, while Gov. George Ryan called for a crackdown on court supervisions for truckers with multiple traffic violations, reports the Sun-Times. Meanwhile, James Phillip, the Republican President of the state Senate, called for the consolidation of truck safety oversight under one state agency, instead of four.
White made truck safety recommendations Friday to a 35-member traffic safety panel he convened after the Amtrak crash. He proposed that court supervisions should be limited to two traffic infractions per year — and all those should be reported to his office.
Judges grant such "supervisions" to allow motorists to avoid having traffic convictions placed on their state driving records, often by attending a special driving school.
The truck driver in the crash was on such a supervision when his tractor-trailer was hit on the crossing by the train. His CDL was suspended after White's office discovered another supervision that had not been reported to his office. In Illinois, all supervisions for truckers are supposed to be reported to the secretary of state's office. For other motorists, only serious supervisions must be reported. Some county officials have said they didn't know supervisions had to be reported to the state.
Don McNamara, regional administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a member of White's panel, said supervision ought to be done away with entirely.
There are still five weeks in the Illinois General Assembly's spring session, and White hopes to get legislation passed addressing the issue.