A semi-truck driver involved in crash that killed four people southwest of Chicago was driving too fast and falsified entries in a logbook tracking the number of hours he spent behind the wheel, authorities said Tuesday.
Investigators believe the semi-truck was speeding on Interstate 55 near Channahon when it struck several vehicles stopped in a construction zone, state police Cmdr. Randy Ness told reporters after Monday's crash. Francisco Espinal Quiroz, 51, of Leesburg, Indiana, was charged with failure to reduce speed to prevent an accident and willfully making false entries in his logbook.
Federal regulators have been tightening rules on work hours for commercial bus and truck operators and are seeking to curtail the practice of logbook tampering to ensure compliance and keep fatigued drivers off the nation's roads.
Investigators have evidence that Quiroz violated rules on working hours and entered incorrect start times in his logbook, said Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond. She declined to reveal how many hours Quiroz had spent behind the wheel before the crash, saying those details could be disclosed during a bond hearing later Tuesday at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet.
Last year, a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel crashed into a state trooper's car on the Tri-State Tollway. James Sauter, 28, of Vernon Hills, was killed. Federal investigators found that the driver, Andrew B. Bokelman, had been on duty for more than 18 hours.
Bokelman was fined $2,500, the maximum fine for driving longer than 14 hours, and United Van Lines was fined $5,500. Sauter's widow sued the driver and the company. The case was settled for $10.9 million earlier this year.
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.
In Monday's crash on I-55, it was not clear if Quiroz already had an attorney. He works for Espinal Trucking, an owner operated one-truck company. No other representative of the company could be reached for comment.
The Will County Coroner's Office identified the victims as 54-year-old Vicky Palacios of Coal City, 48-year-old Urlike Blopleh of Channahon, 43-year-old Kimberly Britton of Urbana and 11-year-old Piper Britton of Urbana.
About 15 minutes after the crash, an unrelated accident took place nearby in the southbound lanes involving two semi-trucks. Both drivers were taken to a hospital, where one later died, state police said.
New federal regulations for truck drivers went into effect last summer, including a maximum average workweek of 70 hours instead of 82 hours.
In March, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed that trucks and buses crossing state lines be equipped with electronic devices that record how many hours the vehicles are in operation. That would make it harder for drivers or their employers to alter paper logbooks, regulators say.