Considering all the efforts the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is giving to restricting hours-of-service rules and drivers with sleep apnea in the name of safety, the loopholes in federal laws that allow unsafe commercial drivers with a history of violations to stay behind the wheel seem all the more outrageous.
An investigative report by Cleveland, Ohio’s 5 On Your Side exposes the loopholes in FMCSA regulations that it says “allow truckers to remain behind the wheel despite excessive tickets and serious accidents.”
The report tells the tragic stories of two Ohio motorists whose lives were shattered just because their paths crossed with a couple of commercial drivers whose driving records were so poor, they would have been dangerous behind the wheel of bicycle, let alone a commercial truck weighing several tons.
According to ABC 5’s report, the driver who ran a red light and struck Diane Eslen in 2009, leaving her with serious injuries she is still recovering from, had received 15 speeding citations since 1990, had been cited for a crash in 1997, and had his commercial drivers license (CDL) revoked twice. One year after the crash, the same driver was again cited for running a red light and paid just a $109 fine. Still, that driver holds a valid CDL because federal law only stipulates commercial drivers be suspended for brief periods, after which his or her license is reinstated.
Another truck driver who swerved over the center line and collided with Graham Brown, 22, on an Ohio highway in 2005 had been released from prison where he was serving time for drug and weapons charges. That driver received his CDL just three months prior to the crash. Police investigating the crash discovered a crack pipe in the truck’s cab, and the driver was thrown in prison again on charges of aggravated driving while under the influence of drugs and possession of illegal drugs.
Ten months after serving a four-year sentence, the driver obtained a new CDL and was back behind the wheel of a commercial truck. Mr. Brown’s mother told ABC 5 that the entire left side of her son’s body had been crushed in the crash. Meanwhile, the driver who crashed into Mr. Brown has racked up two additional speeding tickets.
The FMCSA “establishes guidelines for CDL suspensions that are adopted nationwide,” ABC 5 explains. But “while those guidelines have lifetime suspensions for repeat alcohol or drug related violations, our … investigation found truckers can continue to drive despite years of speeding and wrecks.”