Driver’s Poor Choices Get Him in Big Trouble

By Eric G Braun, Senior Writer, USRW

If there is one thing we all need to be 100% in compliance with as Road Warriors, it’s safety. You get the lectures in orientation, you’ve passed the required tests, you passed the physical despite eating Taco Bell last night and you're eager to get out of the classroom and into the cab.

You're excited at first, new job, new company, and you want to make a good impression and maybe, just maybe, you have finally found that one company that’s a good fit for you and where you can spend your career and move up the seniority ladder.

You follow all the rules and it’s going well. Then here come the habits. A little cutting of corners and picking what rules you will follow and which ones you might be able to get around, and before you know it, bad habits become the rule and you’re in a spiraling downfall.

I get it, you don’t think your actions will have consequences--maybe that’s what a driver in Idaho was thinking. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared Idaho-licensed truck driver Justin Dennis to be an imminent hazard to public safety and has ordered him not to operate any commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce.  Dennis was served the federal order on November 18, 2016.

In January 2015, Dennis, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder, was subject to a USDOT-required random controlled substances test; the verified test results were positive for methamphetamine, thus disqualifying Dennis from operating a CMV.  Dennis was immediately terminated by his employer.

Federal safety regulations require that before a disqualified CDL-holder may be eligible for further testing and a possible return to operating a CMV, as an initial mandatory first step, the individual must report to a Substance Abuse Professional for evaluation.  Dennis failed to initiate the process that would have allowed him to legally resume operating a CMV.

On November 9, 2016, while still disqualified, Dennis was operating a CMV on Interstate 84 in Boise, Idaho when his vehicle struck and killed an automobile driver who was standing near his disabled vehicle that had been involved in a single vehicle crash.  

Dennis admitted to an FMCSA investigator that he had taken methamphetamines a few days prior to the November 9, 2016 crash.  Investigators also found that at the time of the crash, Dennis had exceeded both driving and on-duty hour-of-service limitations designed to prevent fatigued driving.

Dennis further told investigators that he was texting while driving, shortly before the crash occurred.

Failure to comply with the provisions of a federal imminent hazard out-of-service order may result in action by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for equitable relief and punitive damages.  A person that violates an imminent hazard out-of-service order is subject to civil penalties of up to $1,782 per day and may also be subject to criminal penalties for knowing and/or willful violation of the order.

FMCSA is also considering civil penalties for the safety violations discovered during the investigation and may refer this matter for criminal prosecution.

It’s just not worth it Road Warriors. Stay sharp, stay safe and use common sense. Everyone goes home!