The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) of the Department of Transportation (DOT) is the federal agency that governs the commercial trucking industry in the United States. FMCSA is responsible for making sure that trucking companies and truck drivers are complying with the law and that they are operating in a safe manner that protects the safety of all drivers on the nation’s roads and highways.
The federal regulations that the FMCSA enforces help to protect the public who must share the road with commercial truck drivers, and who suffer disproportionately when a commercial truck accident occurs with a passenger vehicle. The negligent behavior of truck drivers in the form of drunk driving, speeding, failure to maintain their vehicle not only endangers the truck driver but also endangers the other drivers with whom they share the road.
What Is An Imminent Hazard?
Imminent hazards are actions that cause a threat to public safety, in this case to other motorists on the road. The FMCSA can declare that a commercial driver or trucking company is an Imminent Hazard to Public Safety, and order an imminent hazard out-of-service order, which results in specific penalties.
Such an order might be issued for several reasons including but not limited to the following:
- Drunk driving
- Failing to maintain driver logs
- Failure to comply with safety regulations
- Failure to maintain safety equipment
- Excessive speeding violations
- Failing a drug test
- Falsifying driver logs
Examples of “imminent hazard to public safety” out-of-service orders for commercial truck drivers:
- The FMCSA issued out-of-service orders to a Kentucky-licensed CDL driver on July 19, 2015, when his CDL was revoked after he failed to stop causing a fatal crash that killed six people in Tennessee in June of that year.
- In March 2016, a California CDL driver was determined to be an imminent hazard to public safety after he was stopped and cited for driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.308 percent, which is nearly seven times the federal limit.
- An Idaho CDL driver was declared by the FMCSA to be an imminent hazard to public safety after an investigation revealed that he had been driving while high on meth, in violation of hours of service regulations and texting on his phone when he caused a fatal accident that killed a motorist on November 9, 2016.
CDL drivers who violate an imminent hazard out-of-service order may result in penalties of not less than $2,750 and disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for no less than 180 days for a first offense, and may also result in criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s office.