The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared Georgia-licensed commercial driver Steven F. Hoppenbrouwer to be an imminent hazard to public safety and has ordered him not to operate any commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce. Hoppenbrouwer was served the federal order on June 19, 2018.
On April 5, 2018, Hoppenbrouwer, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder, was operating a Freightliner Minibus along Interstate 20 transporting passengers to the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, when the vehicle traveled onto the unpaved roadway shoulder causing the minibus to rotate counterclockwise. Continuing to spin, the vehicle returned into the travel lanes where it overturned on its side, sliding across the roadway before striking a cable barrier in the median. Sixteen of the 18 passengers were transported to area hospitals.
The Georgia Department of Public Safety cited Hoppenbrouwer for failure to maintain the roadway travel lane – along with seven felony citations for serious injury by vehicle. He was also cited for driving under the influence after a post-crash controlled substance test resulted positive.
An investigation by FMCSA found that Hoppenbrouwer had previously failed to complete a federally required evaluation and treatment program led by a substance abuse professional after testing positive for a controlled substance in 2015 – however, he falsely certified he had done so on a FMCSA Medical Examination Report Form he signed on March 5, 2018.
FMCSA investigators further discovered that even though Hoppenbrouwer possessed a CDL endorsement for a limited and specified type of commercial vehicle, on at least one occasion he illegally operated a motorcoach for which he was not qualified to drive.
FMCSA’s imminent hazard out-of-service order states that Hoppenbrouwer’s continued operation of a commercial motor vehicle “… substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death to you and the motoring public if not discontinued immediately.”
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. Civil penalties of up to $1,811 may be assessed for each violation of operating a commercial motor vehicle in violation of the order. Knowing and/or willful violation of the order may also result in criminal penalties.
Hoppenbrouwer also may be subject to a civil penalty enforcement proceeding brought by FMCSA for his violation of the Agency’s safety regulations.