The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared Texas-licensed truck driver Steven Wayne Johnson to be an imminent hazard to public safety and has ordered him not to operate any commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce. Johnson was served the federal order on December 16, 2016.
On November 15, 2016, Johnson, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder, was operating a CMV along Interstate 70 near Junction City, Kansas, when his truck crossed the median and crashed head-on into a passenger vehicle. In all, three people were killed.
Immediately after the crash, a Kansas Highway Patrol drug recognition officer conducted field sobriety tests. In addition, urine and blood samples were collected. The blood sample collected from Johnson tested positive for cannabinoids (marijuana) and phencyclidine (PCP), both of which are controlled substances under 21 U.S.C. 1308.
In examining Johnson’s records-of-duty-status for November 15, 2016, and in the days leading up to the crash, FMCSA Investigators found that Johnson was in violation of multiple federal hours-of-service regulations, which are designed to prevent fatigued driving. Prior to the crash, records showed that Johnson had been on-duty and driving for a minimum of 21 hours. In reviewing Johnson’s records-of-duty-status covering the previous six months, 70 of 160 records were missing, and during that period, Johnson did not record any off-duty time.
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 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.
FMCSA is also considering civil penalties for the safety violations discovered during the investigation and may refer this matter for criminal prosecution.