The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced Tuesday that the probable cause of a fatal January 2014 crash near Naperville, Ill., was a truck driver’s delayed reaction caused by fatigue and the poor safety behavior of a high-risk motor carrier.

One person died and two people, including an Illinois State Police officer, were seriously injured when a truck-tractor, operated by high-risk motor carrier DND International, Inc., struck emergency vehicles stopped in the right lane of Interstate 88 while assisting a disabled tractor trailer operated by another high-risk motor carrier, Michael’s Cartage.

Inadequate sleep

The NTSB found in addition to the driver’s fatigue, caused by inadequate sleep, the failure of the high-risk carrier DND International to ensure that its driver adhered to federal hours-of-service regulations contributed to the crash. Also contributing, the NTSB found, was the federal regulator’s inadequate safety oversight of high-risk carriers.

In the crash, the DND International truck, which was towing a flatbed trailer loaded with steel coils, first struck an Illinois State Police patrol car, pushing it off the road. Flames engulfed the patrol car, seriously injuring the police officer. The truck then crashed into a Highway Emergency Lane Patrol (HELP) truck, sandwiching it between the striking truck and the disabled tractor-trailer, fatally injuring the HELP truck driver. That impact then pushed the disabled tractor trailer into a heavy-duty tow truck.

Did not slow down

NTSB investigators found that despite several clearly visible warning indicators on the roadway, the driver of the DND International truck did not slow down or steer to avoid the stopped vehicles, and applied the brakes just one second before impact. NTSB investigators further determined that he had slept less than four and a half of the 37 hours preceding the crash.

Fatigue is an issue on the NTSB’s 2016 Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements because it continues to cause crashes, not only on our nation’s highways, but in all modes of transportation.

“Fatigued driving kills,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart, “and motor carriers that do not ensure that their drivers follow regulations designed to prevent fatigued driving are unsafe and should not be able to continue operating.”

Poor safety records

Both DND International and Michael’s Cartage had longstanding records of poor safety behavior and were categorized as high risk carriers by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Yet for years, due to lack of resources and unsuccessful regulatory action, the FMCSA was unable to get the carriers to improve their safety behaviors in a meaningful way or to stop them from operating.

NTSB Chairman Hart said, “High-risk carriers are a threat to all who use our roadways. Such carriers cannot be permitted to operate with impunity, as did the two carriers involved in this tragic and preventable accident. Today’s recommendations, if implemented, will expand the FMCSA’s toolkit for ensuring that high risk carriers either conduct their businesses safely or cease operations.”

The findings, probable cause, and recommendations are available online at
The full report will be available on the NTSB website in several weeks.