The Naperville trucking company whose semi was involved in a fiery fatal crash earlier this year can put its trucks back on the road, a judge ruled Wednesday afternoon.
The decision overturned an order by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration earlier this month to shut down DND International following an investigation into the crash Jan. 27 on I-88 in Aurora that killed a tollway worker and seriously injured a state trooper.
After a four-day hearing at the Dirksen Federal Building, administrative law Judge Richard C. Goodwin ruled Wednesday afternoon that DND International trucks could immediately return to the roadways.
"The judge ruled that none of the allegations in the imminent hazard order (that shut DND down) was supported by the evidence," DND International Attorney David LaPorte said. "Our trucks will get back on the road, and we remain committed to implementing the electronic logs."
DND was in the process of outfitting its trucks with onboard electronic recorders when federal regulators on April 2 issued a mandate to park all of its semis.
In that report, federal investigators described the company as "imminent hazard to public safety" and said the company "committed widespread, serious violations of federal regulations that protect the safety of the motoring public."
Regulators began investigating shortly after the crash that killed tollway worker Vincent Petrella, 39, of Wheeling and injured Illinois State Police Trooper Douglas J. Balder of Oswego. Both men were pulled over in the eastbound lanes of I-88 helping a disabled semi when the truck owned by DND International crashed into them.
The driver, Renato V. Velasquez, 46, of Hanover Park, was charged with operating a commercial motor vehicle while fatigued or impaired, driving beyond the 14-hour rule and the 11-hour rule, and false report of record and duty status. He's also charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and failure to yield to stationary emergency vehicles.
Further investigation of seven other drivers for DND found that all seven workers had falsified their hours, regulators said.
In response to the ruling Wednesday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a statement saying the agency plans to appeal the judge's decision.
"FMCSA investigators uncovered a dangerous pattern of behavior that the company and their drivers made every effort to conceal. Keeping this company off-the-road is in the best interest of public safety and we will appeal this initial decision," the release said.
DND, however, applauded the decision, saying it will continue to install the electronic onboard recorders and build back its employees and clientele that were both hurt by the decision to shut the company down.
"It's not particularly good for customer relations when you have to call them and tell them that the Department of Transportation has issued an order stranding their cargo out on the road," LaPorte said.
In a statement issued by DND, the company supported the idea of stronger tools to assess motor carrier safety.
"We applaud Senator Durbin for his leadership in the area of motor carrier safety, and agree fully that the FMCSA must do better to implement a valid and reliable system to accurately assess a motor carrier's safety fitness," the statement said. "The lack of such a system not only allows unsafe carriers to go undetected, it falsely portrays companies such as DND, who actually have admirable safety records, as being unsafe. DND is a responsible trucking company run by responsible people."