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Recordings: Virtual 2022 Commercial Driver’s License Violations Conference: Enforcement, Prosecution, & Reporting

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Recently the Truck Safety Coalition released their “Deadliest Truck Crash States” report. According to the article linked here, truck crash deaths have increased by 66% since 2009. It is not just deaths. Annually there are over 146,000 injuries. Included in the article is a US map that will lend itself well to presentations in your jurisdiction.  Even more evidence that prosecutors, law enforcement, clerks and judges must remain vigilant, following the federal prohibition against CDL masking and thereby holding unsafe CDL holders accountable for bad driving behavior.

In July, a CDL holder driving a dump truck who killed one teen and injured another young man in a crash near Longmont Colorado was recently convicted and sentenced to the maximum sentence of 12 years prison. This resulted from the hard work of the Boulder County DA’s Office. At the time of the crash, Sean Souder, the defendant CDL holder, had an extensive record with over 22 traffic convictions and numerous criminal convictions. Years before the fatal crash Souder was convicted of Felony Menacing resulting from a road-rage incident where he was driving a truck and threatened a driver on the interstate with a handgun. Souder was also convicted of Felony Possessing Marijuana with the Intent to sell from that same incident. None of these offenses occurred in the county where the fatal crash occurred. Under 49 C.F.R. § 383.51 (9), the drug conviction should have disqualified Souder for life from operating a CMV with no eligibility for reinstatement, years before the fatal crash. Tragically, he was never so disqualified. One of the links in the CDL chain was broken. Read about the case here.

Unfortunately, many law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges and clerks are unfamiliar with the CDL Masking prohibition. Because of this and the large case loads they all carry, they don’t always think of the great potential danger of a large truck or bus operated by a CDL holder in violation of the traffic regulations. This often leads to charges being deferred, reduced or dismissed in violation of the Federal Masking prohibition. Failure to hold these offenders (who statistically make up less than 10% of all CDL holders) accountable for their bad driving behavior does nothing to change this behavior, leading to tragic consequences such as the one in Colorado.

Please don’t keep your knowledge of the CDL Masking prohibition to yourself. Spread the word to all of our traffic safety partners. Together we can prevent these tragedies and save innocent lives.

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy was acquitted this week after being charged with causing the deaths of 7 motorcyclists in New Hamshire. Unfortunately, the CDL holder should have been disqualified due to an earlier impaired driving arrest but wasn’t. See the link Remember, every link in the CDL chain is important.

July 30, 2022 is the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. The World Day against Trafficking in Persons was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/68/192. This year’s theme is technology, and how it can be utilized to promote and prevent human trafficking. You can learn more about the theme and ways to observe this day here: https://www.un.org/en/observances/end-human-trafficking-day

NDAA and the National Traffic Law Center continue to raise awareness while offering the latest resources in the prosecution of human trafficking. NTLC is offering a new in-person or virtual training on Human Trafficking and the Implication on CDLs.  Please reach out to me if you are interested in this training. Additionally, there is an on-demand online tool (going to this year’s theme!) to inform you about preventing human trafficking on America’s roadways: https://ndaa.org/training/human-trafficking-and-the-impact-on-commercial-drivers-licenses/

Every link in the CDL records chain is critical to highway safety. Many of you will remember New Hampshire’s 2019 Volodymr Zhukovskyy case. Zhukovskyy is the CDL holder charged with causing a crash that killed 7 motorcyclists and injured others. This case exposed flaws in Massachusetts’ State Motor Vehicle driver record keeping system. Prosecutors said Zhukovskyy should not have been on the road at the time of the crash because of an impaired driving arrest several months prior to the crash. The arrest was never recorded on Zhukovskyy’s driving record. The arrest would have likely disqualified Zhukovskyy’s CDL, keeping him off the road and keeping other drivers safe.  This failure to record Zhukovskyy’s impaired driving arrest on his driving record was a broken link in the CDL records chain leading to the crash and the resulting loss of innocent lives. The Massachusetts State Motor Vehicle Registrar resigned as a result of this failure.

This tragic case was avoidable and highlights the importance of accurate and timely reporting of CDL holder’s driving record at all levels, beginning at the roadside with law enforcement issuing the citation and ending with the transmittal of the driving record to the driver’s CDL state of record.

The trial of this case begins Tuesday in New Hampshire. Find the link here.

For those of you in the state of Nevada, remember to sign up to attend our day log annual Mastering Masking conference at no cost, to be held September 15, 2022, at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno NV. Contact Senior Project Coordinator Courtney Jan for details and registration at cjan@ndaajustice.org

In our trainings, Senior Attorney Jim Camp and I always discuss the well-trained CDL holders who keep our roadways safe, and the importance of holding accountable those drivers who don’t follow the rules of the road. One such well-trained driver is Tremaine Breland. He was driving a CMV in Texas when a 10-pound hunk of metal flew through his driver’s windshield and struck him directly in the head. Despite suffering severe injury, Mr. Breland was able to maintain consciousness long enough to safely bring his rig to a stop, potentially preventing crashes around him and saving lives. Read more about this horrific incident here: https://cdllife.com/2022/severely-injured-trucker-family-in-search-of-motorist-responsible-for-10-pound-metal-chunk-left-in-roadway/

In June, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s CDL Division generously authored an article for NTLC’s Between the Lines newsletter about the new law mandating permanent disqualification for CDL holders convicted of severe forms of human trafficking and how we, as traffic safety stakeholders, can help combat human trafficking. You can find the article here: https://ndaa.org/wp-content/uploads/June-2022-BTL-Vol30No6-CDLs-and-Human-Trafficking.pdf

In addition, NTLC offers free, on-demand training on both CDL/ human trafficking and Masking here: https://ndaa.org/programs/ntlc/commercial-drivers-license/training/ . You can also find helpful CDL resources and publications here: https://ndaa.org/programs/ntlc/commercial-drivers-license/cdl-resources/ . And as always, Senior Attorney Jim Camp and I are always available to come train for you, either in person or virtually.

At least 46 people were found dead inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio. 3 persons are in custody.

The majority of commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders are law abiding professionals. A minority are not. Large commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) can hide victims of human trafficking and smuggling. Someone using a CMV in the commission of this crime, among other penalties will lose their CDL for life. This Texas case is tragic evidence that Law Enforcement must remain vigilant for signs of this horrible crime. Members of the trucking and bus industry are in a unique position to see and report human trafficking or smuggling and should immediately contact law enforcement when they are suspicious that trafficking may be taking place.

The potential consequences of impaired driving are deadly, but the risks and tragic results are even greater when the impaired driver is operating an 80,000 pound commercial motor vehicle. The majority of commercial drivers license (CDL) holders are safe, responsible, professionals. Some are not. The federal prohibition against masking CDL related traffic violations is meant to hold CDL holders accountable for their bad driving behavior in an effort to avoid these types of tragedies. As stated in 49 C.F.R. § 384.226, “The State must not mask, defer imposition of judgment, or allow an individual to enter into a diversion program that would prevent a CDL driver’s conviction for any violation, in any type of motor vehicle, of a State or local traffic control law (other than parking, vehicle weight, or vehicle effect violations) from appearing on the river’s record….”

As a follow-up to a previous post, a tractor-trailer driver with a prior history of multiple drug convictions has now been sentenced to 45 years in prison for a crash in a construction zone.

As traffic slowed and merged into a single lane, the tractor-trailer operated by Corey Withrow, who later admitted to driving under the influence of methamphetamines, was travelling 72 miles per hour, when it crashed into the back of a car driven by Aaron Bruce and occupied by Bruce’s four children. Bruce was severely injured and his for children were killed. See link here.

The majority of CDL holders are safety conscious professionals. Unfortunately, the small group of unsafe CDL holders put us all in jeopardy. This link discusses a trucking company that was charged with being “egregiously noncompliant” with multiple Federal safety regulations including allowing six drivers to drive after they were already prohibited to operate. Another example of why we all must hold CDL holders accountable for unsafe driving behavior and avoid the masking of CDL related violations.

Staff Attorney Aaron Ann Cole-Funfsinn are always willing and able to answer your CDL related questions as well as provide training on several CDL related topics.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and we are all aware of the great dangers posed by distracted driving. Those dangers are even greater when the distracted driver is operating an 80,000 pound commercial motor vehicle that can take two hundred yards or more to stop when travelling at highway speeds. This is one of the reasons CDL masking is prohibited and CDL holders are held to a higher standard

An Idaho sheriff’s office created a crash video for Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Many of the videos feature tractor trailers. It is all compelling, but the last crash in the video is particularly shocking. See the video imbedded in this CDLLife.com article.

As reported by law enforcement and local news media, on February 3rd of this year, Louden County Tennessee Sgt. Chris Jenkins was called to remove a ladder that from I-75 in Louden County. He executed a rolling roadblock and was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer driven by Christopher Savannah of Texas. The CMV driven by Savannah also struck two other vehicles on the interstate. It is reported Savannah’s CDL license was disqualified and he had no logs for duty status,  there were insufficient brakes on the truck and a flat tire on the trailer. Investigators testified at the bond hearing that the driver admitted to using marijuana at least eight and four hours before the crash. Marijuana and a firearm were also found in the truck. Savannah was charged with vehicular homicide by intoxication, vehicular homicide by recklessness, three counts of reckless endangerment, DUI along with other charges. Bond was set at one million dollars. See the link to the article here and the link to the hearing video here.

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board met to consider the final report of their investigation into the January 5, 2020, multivehicle crash near Mt. Pleasant Township, Pennsylvania involving several commercial motor vehicles. In this crash a motor coach, going into a descending curve on a wet roadway, travelling 77 mph before entering the curve in a 70 mph zone in excess of the 70 mph posted speed, lost control of the vehicle, hit an embankment and overturned before sliding across the highway. Three other tractor-trailers and a car following the motor coach were also involved. As a result, five people died and 57 were injured.

The motorcoach driver was cited for speeding 14 mph over the speed limit, 24 miles away from the crash location approximately 5 months prior. The NTSB concluded that the motorcoach was traveling too fast on a wet roadway while in a descending curve. This meeting is really worth a watch. During that meeting the investigators discussed commercial vehicle collision avoidance and mitigation systems, the use of connected vehicle technology, the outdated nature of using the 85th percentile as a methodology to set safe speed, the use of variable speed limit signs, and the use of speed safety cameras.

 

Watch the NTSB hearing here.

On January 9, 2022, a trooper with the Indiana State Patrol stopped a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for a roadside inspection and discovered approximately 115 pounds of cocaine in the sleeper berth area of the CMV. The estimated street value of the seized drugs is $2 million. Additionally, the driver faces the possible lifetime disqualification of his commercial driver’s license. Please find the article here: https://cdllife.com/2022/roadside-inspection-results-in-discovery-of-2-million-worth-of-cocaine-in-sleeper-berth/?fbclid=IwAR2w7_5dsEobRFkT9HZiFOo9D-mPe-rz09SYJgH6JBwDzNOKkx6R92tJFmc.

Please contact Staff Attorney Aaron Ann Cole-Funfsinn or Senior Attorney Jim Camp with all of your CDL related questions, and remember, the CDL team is always available, at your request, to present in-person and virtually the highly rated, “Unmasking CDL Violations” as well as “Human Trafficking by CDL Holders”.

In December, Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, a CDL holder, was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 110 years in prison for speeding down a mountain highway west of Denver and causing the deaths of four innocent people as reference in  our 12/21/21 post. The governor of Colorado has now commuted the sentence, reducing it to just 10 years. The prosecutor had moved the court for a resentencing hearing and, according the article in the link below, said she planned on asking for a 20 to 30 year prison sentence. The brother of one of the victims said he and the other victims supported a sentence of 20 to 30 years. The judge has also spoken out relative to the governor’s actions. This case raises issues relative to the adequacy of CDL training, criminal negligence, mandatory minimum sentences, the independence of the judiciary and the seriousness of vehicular homicides. See the article here.

Many of you may have seen the extensive news coverage regarding Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, a CDL driver sentenced to 110 years in prison after the brakes on his truck failed and it slammed into a group of stopped cars on a Colorado highway, killing four and injuring six. Aguilera-Mederos was reported to have been traveling 85 mph in an 45 mph speed zone coming out of the mountains and failed to take advantage of a runaway truck lane. After Aguilera-Mederos’ conviction following a jury trial, the judge stated he did not have the discretion to sentence Aguilera-Mederos to less time under Colorado law. Now, 4 million people have signed a change.org petition asking the Colorado governor to grant clemency in this case or to commute Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence. You can read more about this case here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/12/20/aguilera-mederos-prison-sentence-petition/

Between the 9th and 11th of November, 667 citations were issued, and 51 vehicles and 64 drivers were placed out of service by Virginia and North Carolina state troopers. Powerful evidence of the danger posed by a minority of the CDL holders who operate the most potentially dangerous of vehicles. The safety of the driving public depends on this degree of enforcement with follow-up accountability by prosecutors and courts. Read the story here.

Please contact me, at jcamp@ndaajustice.org, or Aaron Ann Cole-Funfsinn at aacole@NDAAjustice.org  for technical assistance regarding CDL Masking issues or to provide training regarding CDL Masking and compliance with federal statutes regarding Masking. Please also visit the NTLC Commercial Driver’s License related website here, and check out our 3 new free to download Roadside to Record training videos here.

A recent Transport Topics article concerning FMCSA’s new Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse has revealed some interesting information regarding drug and alcohol use by the nation’s truck drivers. Over 56,000 drug and alcohol violations were recorded in 2020 with most drug test failures (29,500) resulting from the use of marijuana. These violations indicate the value of this program, the need for law enforcement to continue to be watchful for signs of drug impairment without the odor of alcohol, and the place for drug recognition expert (DRE) call outs when probable cause for drug impairment exists.  See link above

A trucking company owner was recently sentenced in United States District Court in Providence NH for having altered electronic entries actual drive time and on-duty time in service logbooks for approximately 20 drivers on thousands of occasions. The company owner was alleged to have provided falsified records to both a state trooper and FMCSA investigators following a fatal crash. This case highlights the need for prosecutors and law enforcement to remain vigilant to ensure the accuracy of driving records even in cases involving electronic entries. See the article here.

An Ohio trucker the FMCSA has since declared an imminent hazard has filed a notice that he will plead guilty to a number of felonies including reckless homicide after allegedly causing a fiery crash in an Indiana construction zone that killed four children July 9, 2020. At the crash scene the driver allegedly showed symptoms of impairment with toxicology tests revealing the presence of cannabis, amphetamines and MDMA.  At the time of the crash the driver was on three years’ probation from a 2019 conviction for aggravated possession of drugs.

This case highlights the necessity of avoiding masking in these cases and ensuring the accurate and timely filing of relevant convictions with the state driver license agency. Read more about it here.

Autonomous trucks in limited capacities are operating on our roadways today.  The story at this link indicates, DHL Trucking is planning on deploying an autonomous fleet in 2024.  As we know there are differences between autonomous trucking with and without a safety driver.  One thing is certain, whenever widespread total autonomy happens. Highway safety will be affected.

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