“You’re Letting This Man Still Drive a Truck?”



Nothing was going to stop him. The bobtail truck driver hit a car at an intersection. An off-duty policeman, noticing the erratic driving, tried to stop the driver. But for some reason he wouldn’t stop, even driving under a 12 foot bridge.

The driver, Danny Clyde Burnam, 57, did not stop at a police barricade, drawing fire from police.  At least one police round struck Burnam. Burnam then sped up, doing 60 MPH in a posted 25 MPH speed zone.

Burnam did stop after striking about a dozen vehicles, finally colliding head-on with a car with three young men inside, driving it into a building, and fatally injuring Jeffrey Oakley. Another occupant was seriously injured.

After Burnam was arrested, a police check revealed Burnam was no stranger to the law. His record showed dozens of arrests, many involving drugs and alcohol, and a number of felony convictions, including domestic violence and battery.

The name Burnam, it turns out, was another alias used by Danny Clyde Williams, who had eight social security cards at the time of his arrest.

“It’s unbelievable how somebody has a record of 55 charges and you’re letting this man still drive a truck. I can’t even process that right now.” Mother of one of the victims.

What Happened?

How does a bad player like this fall through the cracks? Who dropped the ball? Why does this happen? Did the trucking company follow the rules and regs?

Finding driving talent is difficult. Some say it’s the job. Some say it’s the pay.

Most truck drivers with at least five years of experience, however, love the job. Truck driving takes skill and acquiring any skill is the product of hard work. An increase in skill in any job is usually followed by an increase in pay. Trucking is no exception. Generally, the longer one successfully works in trucking, the more money one makes. This means keeping a clean driving record, no tickets, no collisions.

Most truck drivers . . . are average. The average driver can have a less-than-perfect driving record and may have been involved a collision or two in the past.

The sub-average driver may have had a number of tickets or was involved in several collisions. These usually get the attention of insurance underwriters, on a case-by-case basis.

Danny Clyde Williams or whatever his name really is, falls into a different category. He is a high-risk driver. The whole purpose of CSA 2010 (now simply CSA) was to identify and monitor the high-risk driver . . . if you recall.

Our whole driver-licensing system is based on the honor code, that implies drivers will honestly represent their history and driving record. The problem is, if a driver is willing to snub his nose in the face of the DOT rule book, cheat, or lie, then there’s not much any government agency can do.

The last line-of-defense is the motor carrier. Every carrier has their own system to vet new drivers. In most cases, their vetting system works. Most carriers have sufficient controls in place to catch any sub-average drivers.

In-house hiring systems can fail, when faced with hiring a high-risk driver who will employ fraudulent means to secure employment. Identifying these drivers is difficult because they are willing to lie and are good at covering their tracks.

Rogue driver

Driver to shipper, “Ain’t no little girl going to tell me how to back my truck.”
It’s all in the attitude . . .

rogue driver

Even after getting towed, the rogue driver left the parking lot by driving out over the curb . . .

Vetting the Driver

To avoid hiring or retaining the high-risk driver:

  • Use a professional background checking service when hiring. I’m always impressed as a loss control rep, when a small organization invests in these type of vetting services. They are not cheap, but neither is a bad hire . . .
  • Pay attention to the driver’s employment history. Try to talk to every previous supervisor, if possible.
  • Look for employment gaps. Is the driver hiding a job in which he was terminated for good cause?
  • Everyday is probation. Usually a string of safety incidents is telling you something about this driver. Investigate every safety incident or collision, especially if not reported by the driver.
  • Don’t skip anything. Do your required background checks. Road test the driver. Find out as much as you can about this person. Fill out all required DOT paperwork, from A-to-Z.
  • Finally, trust your instincts. If you see red flags, pick up bad vibes, or a bad attitude, get someone else’s opinion on whether or not the driver is a good candidate for your company.

Thank you for reading this.

Notification of Expiration of Medical Certification

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise.

Who is responsible to notify a CDL driver that his DOT physical is due to expire?

Responsibility = response + ability, or the ability to respond.

Due to the stringent DOT medical examination requirements, I recommend every driver renew his medical certificate at least 30 days before it is due to expire. Both the driver and his or her organization should have a reminder system in place so this gets done.

About one out of three men have sleep apnea, many times due to a buildup of fatty tissue in the neck. Testing or retesting may be required.

Rushing to do your medical exam (or drinking coffee, taking cold medication, etc.) can raise your blood pressure, resulting in a 90 day card, and another visit to the examiner.

For best results, plan well ahead of the due date, relax, do the exam and get your medical certificate. And don’t forget to take it to your DMV or Secretary of State, etc., so your federal records can be updated.

Rumormill: About a Homeland Security Survey?

Q. One of my driver’s had a question, based on information given him by a doctor or nurse in one of those medical facilities at Pilot: If a driver does not complete a survey from Homeland Security, would they have their CDL status dropped?

New Medical Certification requirements as of January 30, 2012 (no later than January 30, 2014) require that all CDL drivers need to provide information to their State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA) regarding the type of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operation they drive in or expect to drive. CDL drivers who are required to have a ”certified” medical status, and fail to provide and/or keep their medical examiner’s certificate current with their SDLA will become ”not-certified” and may lose their CDL. Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) holders became subject to the same requirement as CDL drivers (that a medical examiner’s certificate be provided to the SDLAs so that this information will be available on record for CLP holders), beginning on July 8, 2015.

Most states are compliant with this new rule (RIN: 2126–AB71). Compliance Check: If you run the driver’s MVR, you should see the required information on the MVR report. As of a January 14, 2014 modification, CDL drivers are required to carry their paper medical certificate until January 30, 2015. Carriers and organizations should retain a copy for the driver’s qualification file.

Here’s the new updated regulations form the Federal Register:

FMCSA has decided to again extend for another year, until January 30, 2015, the date after which sole reliance on such driver records will be required for another year. The necessary amendments to 49 CFR 391.23(m), 391.41(a) and 391.51(b)(7) to accomplish this extension are set out below. (Note: keeping the paper documents is the only change; the remainder of the regulation is NOT postponed or delayed.)

In § 391.41, revise paragraph (a)(2) to read as follows:

§ 391.41 Physical qualifications for drivers.

(a) * * *
(2) CDL/CLP exception. (i) Beginning January 30, 2015, a driver required to have a commercial driver’s license under part 383 of this chapter, and who submitted a current medical examiner’s certificate to the State in accordance with § 383.71(h) of this chapter documenting that he or she meets the physical qualification requirements of this part, no longer needs to carry on his or her person the medical examiner’s certificate specified at § 391.43(h), or a copy for more than 15 days after the date it was issued as valid proof of medical certification.

(ii) Beginning July 8, 2015, a driver required to have a commercial learner’s permit under part 383 of this chapter, and who submitted a current medical examiner’s certificate to the State in accordance with § 383.71(h) of this chapter documenting that he or she meets the physical qualification requirements of this part, no longer needs to carry on his or her person the medical examiner’s certificate specified at § 391.43(h), or a copy for more than 15 days after the date it was issued as valid proof of medical certification.

(iii) A CDL or CLP holder required by § 383.71(h) of this chapter to obtain a medical examiner’s certificate, who obtained such by virtue of having obtained a medical variance from FMCSA, must continue to have in his or her possession the original or copy of that medical variance documentation at all times when on-duty.
* * * * *
4.In § 391.51, revise paragraph (b)(7)(ii) to read as follows:
§ 391.51 General requirements for driver qualification files.

* * * * *
(b) * * *
(7) * * *
(ii) Exception. For CDL holders, beginning January 30, 2012, if the CDLIS motor vehicle record contains medical certification status information, the motor carrier employer must meet this requirement by obtaining the CDLIS motor vehicle record defined at § 384.105 of this chapter. That record must be obtained from the current licensing State and placed in the driver qualification file. After January 30, 2015, a non-excepted, interstate CDL or CLP holder without medical certification status information on the CDLIS motor vehicle record is designated “not-certified” to operate a CMV in interstate commerce. After January 30, 2015, a motor carrier may use a copy of the driver’s current medical examiner’s certificate that was submitted to the State for up to 15 days from the date it was issued as proof of medical certification.

* * * * *
end regulatory text
Issued under the authority delegated in 49 CFR 1.87 on: January 8, 2014.

How does “Homeland Security” fit into this?

In some states Homeland Security may be part of the licensing bureau or DMV. For example, in Tennessee,  the State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA) is called the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security (TDOSHS).  TDOSHS will be adding CDL driver’s medical certification status and the information from Tennessee drivers’ medical certificates to the federal Commercial Driver’s License System (CDLIS) record.

Obiter Dictum

Napoleon uttered the famous observation, “Order, counter-order, disorder.” With so many recent changes to DOT regulations, a little ‘disorder’ and confusion can be anticipated until everyone is on the same page. Please bookmark this blog for additional compliance insights and to stay current on recent regulatory changes and issues.