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 center lane, where 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”.
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:
- At the time of the crash, Dennis had exceeded both driving and on-duty hours-of-service (HOS) limits—the federal rules established to prevent truckers from becoming excessively tired behind the wheel;
- The trucker admitted to ingesting methamphetamine “a few days” prior;
- Dennis also admitted that he was texting while driving shortly before the crash; and,
- 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, and was therefore disqualified from driving a commercial truck.
Missing details in truck crash reports
This new information leads to more questions, which—so far— have not been addressed by reporters or investigators:
- Who owned the truck that Dennis was operating?;
- Who hired him to drive it after he had been suspended for testing positive for meth … and was disqualified from driving?; and,
- Did the carrier know he was violating HOS rules? Had this happened before?
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 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.