Report: Truck driver worked too many hours before deadly crash
The truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a state trooper's car on the Tri-State Tollway in March had been on duty for more than 18 hours, according to a federal investigation.
Driver Andrew B. Bokelman and the company he worked for at the time of the March 28 crash that killed 28-year-old James Sauter, of Vernon Hills, have both been fined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Federal regulations mandate 10 hours of rest after 14 hours of driving, but according to GPS logs from Bokelman's truck, he had been driving for several hours past that limit at the time of the crash near Willow Road.
Bokelman, 26, has not been charged with a crime related to the crash and Illinois State Police said an investigation is still ongoing. Monique Bond, public information officer with the state police, said they expect the final report on the crash investigation to be complete in the coming months.
There are conflicting reports about the events leading to the crash. Some evidence indicates that Sauter's squad car was on the shoulder of I-294 near Willow Road, and that Bokelman's truck swerved and crashed into it.
Other evidence indicates Sauter was pulling his squad back onto the roadway from the shoulder, when he was hit by Bokelman at about 11 p.m. on March 28.
Whatever the outcome of the state report, the federal agency's investigation, which was completed in late May and filed in early June, shows that Bokelman's truck had been in motion for longer than federal safety regulations allow.
Bokelman was fined $2,500, the maximum fine for driving longer than 14 hours, and United Van Lines was fined $5,500. The company could have been fined more but wasn't because it is Bokelman's only offense since getting a commercial driver's license in 2012. According to company records, Bokelman was hired by United Van Lines in December 2012.
The investigation found that Bokelman was driving for a United Van Lines client, Barrett Moving Co., from 6:31 a.m. to 6:32 p.m. and then again between 7:14 and 7:34 p.m.
At that point he had driven for more than 12 hours without rest, according to the investigation.
But Bokelman started driving again at 8:49 p.m. in Waukesha, Wis., and then was stopped by the crash at 11:03 p.m.
That brought his total drive time to more than 14 hours and his time on duty to more than 18 hours by the time of the crash.
A statement from United Van Lines acknowledges the company has received the federal agency's report and the fine and is reviewing it.
"We continue to be deeply saddened by the loss of Trooper Sauter," the statement says.
"United is cooperating fully with the authorities investigating the accident. Due to the active nature of the investigation, we are unable to make further statements at this time."
The company would not confirm if Bokelman was still employed there or not.