First Alert 4 Investigates: Metro East Greyhound crash spotlighting tractor-trailer highway hazards

Three months after a deadly Greyhound bus crash in Highland, Illinois, the tragedy is putting the spotlight on a highway hazard.
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 10:28 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Three months after a deadly Greyhound bus crash in Highland, Illinois, the tragedy is putting the spotlight on a highway hazard.

On July 12, 2023, a Greyhound bus went off the road at the westbound I-70 Silver Lake rest stop, colliding with multiple tractor-trailers parked along the shoulder. In all, 14 people were injured, three died.

“There are many people in the vehicle that are injured; some got out, some are still getting out, some can’t get out, and they’re trapped,” a passenger can be heard saying in a 911 call recording.

Illinois State Police and federal investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board haven’t said what caused the crash. A survivor and a family who lost their loved one are suing Greyhound, the bus driver and tractor-trailer drivers who were parked on the ramp.

Nationally, there is a shortage of parking spots for trucks. The American Trucking Associations estimates there is one spot for every 11 trucks on the road.

First Alert 4 Investigates found every day, truck drivers are creating their own spots by parking on the shoulders of ramps and highways across the St. Louis region. The I-Team went on the road from nightfall to early morning, peak times as truckers stop overnight. Some are parking where signs clearly say they can’t, and others are creating lines so long they extend onto the highway.

“As far as nighttime parking, it’s a disaster,” said Terry McFadden, who’s spent the past ten years driving trucks across the country. “No matter where you go, you’re fighting for parking.”

Federal law limits how many hours truckers can be on the road before they need to rest, what’s called “hours of service.” As of 2017 trucks are required to have electronic logging devices, called ELDs. The electronic logs are sent directly to the U.S. Department of Transportation. If a truck driver doesn’t stop to rest when they are supposed to, the electronic log will send that to the feds.

“I got here, and I had to play the make-your-own parking spot, fortunately, I stayed up until this spot cleared out,” McFadden said. “You’re out of hours it’s either take the guaranteed spot back on the ramp or roll through, find that there isn’t any parking and then how far do you go to find parking again?”

The latest numbers from the federal government estimate in 2020 there were 30,000 crashes involving trucks on the shoulder or roadside, of those, 457 were deadly.

State laws on parking vary. In Illinois, it’s illegal to park overnight on the shoulders of highways or ramps, but in other states, it’s legal, including in Missouri.

“As long as you’re off of the main travel portion of the roadway, you can stop on the shoulder.”

Cpl. Dallas Thompson with Missouri State Highway Patrol said they’re seeing more trucks on the road, and with it, more making their own parking spots

When asked if it was a safety concern, Thompson responded, “Well, absolutely.”

“We’re always worried about the safety aspect of it, but as long as they’re staying in compliance with the law, there’s not a whole lot we can do to change anything right now,” Thompson added.

Illinois Congressman Mike Bost thinks he has the solution, he proposed a bi-partisan bill to dedicate $755 million dollars for states to expand rest stops or build new ones.

Bost proposed this bill before during past sessions, but it didn’t pass. He believes the Greyhound crash should show lawmakers that something needs to change.

Bost said if the bill passes, he estimates it would take 15 years to get enough parking spots.

When asked what should be done for safety in the time being, Bost answered, “It’s up to the individual drivers to try to be as safe as they possibly can, try to work with law enforcement.”

“It is urgent, but trying to wake people up to it and get this bill across the finish line, you know there’s other things that are pending here, and other people are focusing on other things, but we can do both chew gum and walk, and we should be able to move this,” Bost added.

First Alert 4 Investigates captured video, months later, in the same area as the I-70 rest stop where the deadly Greyhound crash happened, showing tractor-trailers covering both sides of the ramp and forming a line back onto the highway.

“I personally don’t park on the ramps on and off ever, but I understand why guys do,” Terry McFadden said. “What’s he supposed to do? What else can he do?”

Drivers like McFadden say they’re forced into an unsafe situation because there’s nowhere else to go.

“Absolutely something needs to be done about it. I don’t know what can be done,” he said.

First Alert 4 Investigates looked into how often enforcement is happening in Illinois, where parking on the shoulder of ramps and highways is illegal. According to Illinois State Police, from January 1, 2023, to July 14, 2023, there were nine citations and 12 written warnings. A spokesman said the department’s system makes it difficult to track enforcement, which is why they provided a limited time period.

State police also sent a statement saying:

“ISP officers have written citations, issued warnings, or alerted the driver that parking is in violation of the law. The totality of the situation and location must be considered in each instance.”

The state police director’s office said it wouldn’t do an interview about enforcement because the Greyhound bus crash is still under investigation.