Trucker in fatal crash an “imminent hazard to public safety”

On the evening of November 9th,  2016 a semi-truck struck an Oregon man on I-84 in Idaho.

The State Police reported that 24-year-old Matthew Martin, of Ontario, Oregon, had hit a guardrail. His Toyota ended up in the center lane. He exited the car and was hit by a semi-truck.

Martin later died in an Idaho hospital.

The semi-truck— a 2012 commercial Freightliner—was operated by Idaho truck driver Justin Dennis.

Initially, the media coverage of this story sounds like a simple “accident”: two drivers in the wrong place at the wrong time.

However, the FMCSA news release tells a different story—and we know that most crashes aren’t “accidents”.

FMCSA_Report-Fatal Semi Crash

This week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) declared Dennis an “Imminent Hazard to Public Safety”, issuing a federal order prohibiting him from operating a commercial truck.

What FMCSA investigators found:

  1. At the time of the fatal semi crash, Dennis had exceeded both driving and on-duty hours-of-service (HOS) limits. These federal rules were established to prevent truckers from becoming excessively tired behind the wheel.
  2. The trucker admitted to ingesting methamphetamine “a few days” prior.
  3. He also admitted that he was texting while driving shortly before the crash.
  4. Last but not least, Dennis was disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle at the time of the crash.

He had been suspended in January 2015 after testing positive for methamphetamine in a random controlled substances test, required by USDOT.

FMCSA states he was “immediately terminated” by his (unnamed) employer at that time. If a licensed CMV driver fails a drug test, they must undergo a substance abuse evaluation before driving again.

Dennis did not submit to an evaluation. He was, therefore, disqualified from driving a commercial truck.

Missing details in fatal semi crash reports

This new information leads to more questions, which—so far— have not been addressed by reporters or investigators:

  1. Who owned the truck that Dennis was operating?
  2. Who hired him to drive it after he had been suspended for testing positive for meth … and was disqualified from driving?
  3.  Did the carrier know he was violating HOS rules? Had this happened before?
Fatal semi crash-truck highway-I84
Local news reports, like this one from KBTV, do not mention the truck owner or carrier – or anything about the trucker’s record.

A simple Internet search indicates that the motor carrier is Caldwell-based Cheney Transport, but this has not been confirmed by media reports.

Every fatal accident crash is a life-changing tragedy, for everyone involved.

Regardless of the circumstances related to the victim, this is damning evidence of a dangerous trucker.

For more information, see the Idaho State Police release, detailing the fatal truck crash on I-84.


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