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Truck driver fatigue blamed for Aurora fatality, trooper's burns

Who is to blame when a Cook County commercial truck driver spends too many hours behind the wheel? The Federal Motor Carrier Administration sets hours-of-service rules to avoid truck driver fatigue.

Non-passenger commercial drivers are permitted to drive 11 hours following a 10-hour off duty period. Truckers can put in no more than a 14-hour day, including on and off duty time. The federal rules are in place because tired drivers are dangerous drivers.

An Interstate 88 toll road employee died and a state trooper suffered severe burn injuries in an explosion and fire caused by a crash. The multi-vehicle accident happened in Aurora, after the tollway worker stopped to help a stranded tractor-trailer driver.

The broken down semi-truck was alongside the road with the tollway truck parked behind it. In back of the tollway vehicle was the state trooper's car, with emergency lights engaged.

Reports said a second tractor-trailer rammed the rear of the police vehicle and set off an explosive chain reaction. The patrol car was shoved forward into the tollway vehicle, which in turn slammed into the back of the disabled semi. Flames erupted throughout the wreckage.

The 39-year-old toll road employee died in the fiery collision. The truck driver was unhurt, but the state trooper was burned badly. The officer was listed in critical condition, however officials announced he is expected to recover.

Investigators said the 46-year-old Hanover Park man who caused the accident had been on the road too long. The driver was charged with impairment due to fatigue, breaking the 11- and 14-hour FMCA rules, falsifying a report and two traffic infractions, including failure to yield to stopped emergency vehicles.

Commercial truck drivers may be responsible for driving too many consecutive hours, but trucking companies are often to blame for encouraging the practice. Both parties can be named as defendants in civil cases for personal injuries and wrongful deaths.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Tollway worker killed, trooper hurt in fiery crash" Peter Nickeas and Mitch Smith, Jan. 28, 2014

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