Trucker in Amtrak Crash Sentenced
KANKAKEE, Ill. (AP) _ A truck driver convicted of charges related to a 1999 train derailment that left 11 people dead and 122 injured was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison.
John R. Stokes, 63, was convicted last month of violating a law limiting how much time truckers can drive without rest and not keeping an accurate logbook _ the only two criminal charges he faced in the case.
Stokes was driving a rig loaded with steel near Bourbonnais south of Chicago on March 15, 1999, when he collided with Amtrak’s ``City of New Orleans.″ The crash derailed the train, sending it crashing into rail cars loaded with steel on an adjacent track.
Stokes’ attorneys had argued that he suffered from a variety of medical problems, including diabetes, and is not a danger to society and should not be required to serve prison time. Authorities had urged the maximum one- to three-year sentence.
Federal investigators said Stokes slept only three to five hours in the 38 hours before the accident, violating federal rules requiring an eight-hour break after every 10 hours of driving.
Investigators found four additional incidents in the two months before the crash in which Stokes recorded he was either off-duty or sleeping at the same time company records showed he was picking up and hauling steel.
Within months of the crash, the Federal Highway Administration began pushing for stricter regulations on the time truckers can spend on the road without rest. Trucking interests fought the proposed changes, however, and new rules passed in January allow truckers to drive an hour longer while requiring they then take 10 hours off instead of eight.
Stokes did not comment during the sentencing hearing and Judge Clark Erickson ordered him into custody immediately.