The Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General has announced it will audit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s investigative practices for high-risk motor carriers.
The audit was prompted by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). He had called for such an investigation over a year ago after the Chicago Tribune reported that FMCSA had ordered but never initiated an investigation into the negative driver-related safety record of a Napier, Ill., carrier involved in a January, 2014, crash.
In that incident, DND driver Renato Velasquez crashed into parked cars on I-88, causing the death of Tollway worker Vincent Petrella and injuring State Trooper Douglas Balder.
The agency had taken a brief enforcement action against the company, DND International, in early 2011, but ultimately did not force the carrier to resolve numerous safety deficiencies, reported the Tribune, based on records the newspaper obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
DND International’s recurring violations cited by the news report include instances of drivers falsifying duty logbooks and violating hours-of-service rules.
According to Durbin’s office, on April 9, 2014, the Senator had asked the DOT Inspector General to audit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s investigative practices.
Then, in June, Durbin included a provision in the 2015 funding bill that directed the department’s IG to conduct that audit and to “recommend ways to ensure that the agency does not miss opportunities to take dangerous drivers or motor carriers off the road before accidents happen.”
In a May 5 memo to FMCSA Administrator Scott Darling, DOT Assistant Inspector General for Surface Transportation Audits Mitchell Behm advised that “our audit objective is to assess FMCSA’s processes for ensuring that reviews of motor carriers flagged for investigation are timely and adequate.” He noted that the audit will begin immediately.
“The crash last year took the life of a Tollway worker who was stopped on the side of the road assisting a driver and his broken down truck,” said Sen. Durbin in a statement. “We owe it to his family and the State Police Trooper who was injured in the accident to fully review why this high-risk trucking company was allowed to remain on the road.
“More importantly,” he added, “I hope this Inspector General investigation will give FMCSA guidance on how to identify warning signs earlier in order to avoid a tragedy like this in the future.”