Truck Driver Disqualification: What Does “Imminent Hazard” Mean?
Wednesday, October 12, 2016By Richard Alexander
Many people are unaware that the federal government has the power to disqualify unsafe drivers from operating commercial motor vehicles under certain circumstances. The U.S. Department of Transportation has the legal authority to do this when a driver constitutes an “imminent hazard” to public safety.
Under federal law, an imminent hazard may apply to a vehicle, an employee, or even to commercial motor vehicle operations. The key is that the condition “substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death if not discontinued immediately.”
There is also a provision that applies to hazardous material.
Two recent California disqualifications illustrate this important governmental power. In the first, a California-licensed driver was determined to be “medically unqualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.” The driver tested positive three separate times for amphetamines or methamphetamines before he was ordered disqualified from driving a CMV in interstate commerce.
While his disqualification was in place, he was in a crash when he lost control of a CMV he was driving. The vehicle left the highway, hit a barrier, and rolled over. Law enforcement cited him for failing to maintain control of the CMV.
The second driver was stopped in Illinois “for driving under the influence of alcohol.” Amazingly, his blood alcohol level was almost seven times higher than the legal limit, at 0.308 percent. Law enforcement cited the driver for driving under the influence of alcohol, possessing alcohol while driving, failing to keep mandatory driver log books, illegally transporting alcohol, and improper lane use.
The federal government found that both drivers presented an imminent hazard to public safety and ordered them not to drive CMVs in interstate commerce. Potential penalties for violating their respective orders include a fine, a substantial period of disqualification, and criminal charges.
Other driver behaviors that may lead to an imminent hazard finding include leaving the scene of an accident, causing a fatality by operating a CMV negligently, excessive speeding, and violating state laws that ban texting while driving.
The federal government’s ability to disqualify drivers plays an important role in preventing disasters on the road. The physical and emotional pain that trucking accident victims and families go through is truly tragic. Our San Francisco personal injury attorneys at Alexander Law Group, LLP understand that this is an incredibly hard time. We are here for our clients and will passionately seek appropriate compensation for you as the result of your injuries. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.