San Antonio/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on April 02, 2024
Truck Driver Charged in Fatal Bus Crash, Had History of Failed Drug TestsSource: Unsplash/ Tingey Injury Law Firm

A truck driver with a history of drug violations caused a deadly collision with a Hays CISD school bus in Bastrop County, killing a young boy and a university student, court documents reveal. Jerry Hernandez, 43, has been charged with criminally negligent homicide following the March 22 incident that also injured numerous children and adults. Investigation uncovered that Hernandez had multiple failed drug tests and possessed a "prohibited" commercial driver's license (CDL) at the time of the crash.

Despite a CDL refusal for a reasonable suspicion test in September 2020 and tests positive for marijuana and cocaine in subsequent years, Hernandez was still employed by FJM Concrete as a driver. According to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by KSAT, his employer did not check his drug test record or verify his status through the federal Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse as required.

Furthermore, a separate case against the owner of FJM Concrete, Francisco Martinez, emerged for employing an unlicensed driver. Investigators allege lack of sleep, drug use, and a long workday contributed to Hernandez's loss of control over the truck leading to its collision with the school bus. Footage from the school bus exposed the truck veering across the double line directly before impact, as reported by KSAT.

The tragic event claimed the lives of a 5-year-old boy, Ulises Rodriguez Montoya, onboard the bus returning from a field trip, and 33-year-old Ryan Wallace, a UT student in another vehicle. Hernandez's admission to using drugs prior to the crash and refusal to take a blood test at the hospital raises critical questions about the thoroughness of commercial driver vetting processes.

An interview with Texas truck driver Robert Garza emphasized the role of the Clearinghouse in keeping track of drug test results for CDL holders. "That's what Clearinghouse is for. It automatically saves all you information for everything," Garza told Fox San Antonio. Lieutenant Daniel A. Martinez from the Texas Department of Public Safety stated companies must use the Clearinghouse for pre-employment checks to identify any negative record in the database.

The case has highlighted a significant loophole in the Texas DL system, where state agencies were not required to downgrade CDL statuses until a future date, leaving Hernandez's CDL "eligible" despite his violations. The deaths, injuries, and the subsequent investigation into the responsibilities of truck drivers and their employers draw attention to systemic issues in commercial driver regulation and oversight.