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Long Hours By Plow Drivers Could Pose Safety Risk

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Derrick Blakley Derrick Blakley
Derrick Blakley is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2...
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(CBS) – Suburban truck driver Renato Velasquez was allegedly behind the wheel for 37 hours–with less than four hours of sleep.

He remains held on $150,000 bond after a deadly crash this week on the tollway in Aurora that injured a state trooper and killed tollway worker Vincent Petrella.

But the question remains: Should all truck drivers have to obey the same hourly limits? Including snow plow drivers?

CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley takes a look in this Original Report.

During a storm, drivers from the Illinois Department of Transportation that plow the snow and spread salt spend long hours on the road. Question is: are the hours too long?

“The sharper you are mentally, the safer you are on the road, and when you’re fatigued, accidents happen,” said personal injury attorney Louis Cairo.

Truck driver Renato Velasquez triggered the Monday crash that left a Tollway worker dead and a state trooper critically injured. He’d worked 36 hours with only three and a half hours sleep.

That’s illegal under federal rules, which limit long-haul truck drivers to 11 hours behind the wheel in a 14-hour period followed by 10-hours of rest.

But those limits don’t apply to “drivers removing snow and ice” like, IDOT workers.

But attorney Louis Cairo, who’s represented drivers injured by snow plows, thinks they should.

“It’s a double standard and the only people who are punished by it are innocent motorists,” said Cairo.

Seasonal IDOT drivers told CBS 2 they work 12-hour weekday shifts followed by 18-hour weekend shifts, without days off. The result: something close to an 80-hour work week.

Assigning shorter shifts would undoubtedly cost more.

“The excuse is, we’re saving money, we’re not saving lives, and that’s a bad excuse when it comes to public safety on our highways,” said Cairo.

In a statement, IDOT says safety is a priority and work schedules are negotiated with union reps. Drivers are required to take three breaks amounting to one hour in a 12-hour shift, and four breaks amounting to one hour, forty minutes during an 18 hour shift.

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