Dangerous highway conditions: Truckers tampering with safety mechanisms

January 30, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Thousands of people every year are killed in crashes nationwide involving large trucks. The deadly domino-effect wreck last week in northwest Indiana was just the latest evidence.

But the I-Team has discovered that what happened on I-88 this week and that icy stretch of I-94 last week is a daily threat for all drivers, and some truckers are endangering you and your family by fooling the system.

"I worry about it all the time," said Renee Glass.

Renee Glass' father Bob made his living driving a truck in central Illinois, but one night on the way home a truck speeding in the opposite direction swerved into oncoming traffic and right into him. The result was instant death.

"There were 200 feet of skid marks, and the coroner can tell you that he felt nothing, he felt 200 feet of knowing what was the end of that because he stood on his brakes and there is nobody who can tell me that my father did not feel anything, he knew what was at the end of that skidmark," said Glass.

From the multi-truck Indiana pileup to the Aurora fireball Monday night, truck crashes are on the increase, with the latest data from 2011 showing more than 3,700 deaths nationwide, with130 in Indiana and 120 in Illinois.

"Unfortunately, the truck usually always wins when its involved in a crash," said Tom Green, Dynamic Safety.

Northwest suburban crash reconstruction expert Tom Green says speed can be so deadly in truck crashes that many companies activate electronic speed limiters -- called governors -- on their fleets.

But this device secretly short-circuits that. The "Safety Pass Pro" advertised as a "total stealth" way to fool any trucks speed limiters, allowing truckers to go further in less time.

The Pass Pro claims it is "totally undetectable" no matter how fast a truck is going. And, the actual speed is never recorded in a truck's black box.

"Anytime someone uses some device or some type of method to bypass a safety feature everyone should be concerned about that," said Green.

The I-Team also uncovered new tricks truckers use to violate U.S. law limiting the hours and distance traveled without rest, described on truckers social media as "comic books."

One set of actual time logs for the company; a second, fake set of time books for federal inspectors.

After the fatal I-88 crash, trucker Renato Valasquez was charged with providing false records to cover-up 38 straight hours behind the wheel without the required sleep.

Experts say a toxic trucker's brew of exhaustion is about to be worsened as Illinois raises speed limits to 70 miles per hour.

"You've got a formula for disaster. It's high time that something be done about it that's so common sense and actually has no cost. All we got to do is turn on the speed limiters," said Steve Owings, president and co-founder of Road Safe America.

"These are big machines, and when you push a machine, accidents happen. He was in a rush to do something, to get somewhere, to do something but I don't know if that's worth the value of a human life," said Glass.

Renee Glass hopes tragedies such as her family's and the inconceivable northwest Indiana chain-reaction crash remind people to slow down.

"Watching the images then on TV, it was very similar to what my dad's truck looked like post-accident. My husband said, 'Look at all of those people, how could they all have been going too fast?' And it didn't take all of them, it took one," said Glass.

Faster Truck Enterprises, the Nevada company that makes Safety Pass Pro, says they "disagree with the premise that 'slower is safer' and say big-rigs should be able to maintain speed with surrounding traffic." They say speed reducers are meant to cut truck company expenses. In their ads, Safety Pass Pro claims it is to be used "to increase public safety" and any other uses are "strongly discouraged."

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