Federal authorities have shut down a Michigan City, Indiana-based commercial trucking operation for failing to comply with an investigation of the carrier’s compliance with federal safety regulations following a deadly July 21 crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that it has suspended the operating authority of Francisco Espinal Quiroz, a commercial truck driver who does business as Espinal Trucking after a representative of Espinal Trucking denied federal safety regulators access to the company records.
Mr. Espinal, 51, of Leesburg, Ind., was driving a semi-truck on Interstate 55 in the Chicago area when he collided full-speed with a line of traffic that had slowed in a construction zone in Will County. The impact killed four people, including an 11-year-old girl and her mother. All four were pronounced dead at the scene.
Authorities said Mr. Espinal was speeding through the construction zone in the left lane, past cars that had slowed down in the right lane as they neared the construction. The section of highway Mr. Espinal was speeding on changed from two lanes to one, and he abruptly tried to cut back over to the right lane when his lane ended.
Mr. Espinal is being held on a $1 million bond. He faces felony charges for false reporting of driving (hours-of-service) records and failure to maintain record of duty status. He was also cited for failure to reduce speed to prevent an accident.
Assistant Illinois State’s Attorney James Long said that other charges, including reckless homicide, are possible pending the results of an investigation.
Prosecutors allege that Mr. Espinal was behind the wheel for more than 12 hours when the crash occurred, a violation of laws capping the maximum number of hours drivers of commercial trucks can spend on the road without a period of rest.
According to the Sun-Times, the deadly crash and others involving commercial trucks occurred during an extensive safety initiative called “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow” that Illinois State Police and the Illinois Truckers Association have had in place for six months.
Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond told the Sun-Times that the initiative was launched “because we are aware of so many fatalities involving commercial motor vehicles.”
According to the Sun-Times, Ms. Bond said the campaign’s coordinators have tried “aggressively” to raise awareness about speeding in construction zones for two years, “but whether or not the trucking industry is getting the message, I don’t know.”