Truck driver feds call ‘hazard to public safety’ lost license before he hit man on I-84

An Idaho commercial truck driver who hit and killed an Oregon man on Interstate 84 near Boise on Nov. 9 has been declared “an imminent hazard to public safety” by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Justin Dennis, of Nampa, admitted to federal investigators that he had taken methamphetamines a few days prior to the crash. He also told investigators that he was texting while driving shortly before the crash occurred.

And, DOT found that at the time of the crash, Dennis had exceeded both driving and on-duty hour-of-service limitations designed to prevent fatigued driving.

The federal agency on Nov. 18 ordered Dennis not to operate any commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce, according to a DOT safety bulletin.

Dennis, 41, was driving a 2012 Freightliner west on I-84 near Broadway Avenue about midnight on Nov. 9. Matthew Martin, 24, of Ontario, was also westbound in a 2016 Toyota Corolla when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a guard rail. The Toyota came to rest in the center lane. When Martin stepped out of his vehicle, he was struck by Dennis. Martin died from his injuries.

The U.S. DOT says Dennis was barred from operating a commercial vehicle at the time of the crash.

As a commercial driver’s license holder, Dennis was subject to federally required random drug tests. In January 2015 he tested positive for methamphetamine, which disqualified him from operating a commercial vehicle. Dennis’ employer immediately terminated him.

In order to get his license reinstated, federal safety regulations require Dennis to see a substance abuse professional for evaluation. Dennis failed to do this.

According to Dennis’ Facebook page, he started working for Cheney Transportation in Caldwell in April 2015; he left J&T Motor Freight in Nampa in February 2015.

A person who answered the phone Tuesday at Cheney Transportation said, “No comment.”

Idaho State Police also is conducting an investigation into the crash.

“We are currently waiting on blood results from the truck driver,” said Capt. Bill Gardiner. “Once we have them back, we will be submitting all information to the prosecutor for review.”

A person who violates a federal imminent hazard out-of-service order is subject to civil penalties of up to $1,782 per day and may also be subject to criminal penalties for violating the the order.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell