Buttigieg: Marijuana rescheduling won’t impact DOT drug testing | Fleet owner convicted of lying to FMCSA

Trucking news and briefs for Friday, June 28, 2024:

DOT believes marijuana will remain a no-no for truckers

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during a House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure hearing Thursday that the Department of Justice’s proposal to move marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug doesn't impact his agency's drug screening rules.

"Any impaired driving -- be it alcohol, marijuana or any other source of impairment -- is, of course, a major safety concern," Buttigieg said. "Our understanding of the rescheduling of marijuana from Schedule I to a Schedule III is that it would not alter DOT's marijuana testing requirements with respect to the regulated community."

The Drug Enforcement Administration and DOJ in May published a notice of proposed rulemaking to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug. Schedule I drugs, substances or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule III drugs are is defined as those with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.

Currently a Schedule I drug, marijuana shares a classification with heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and ecstasy. As a Schedule III, it would be classified alongside medications like low doses of codeine and testosterone, among others.

[Related: Biden officially commits to marijuana regs overhaul: What CDL drivers need to know]

The American Trucking Associations last week sent a letter to Buttigieg expressing its concern to the DOJ's proposal, and asked Buttigieg to share whether U.S. DOT will maintain the authority and means to conduct testing for marijuana use by commercial motor vehicle drivers and other safety-sensitive transportation workers. 

For private individuals performing safety-sensitive functions subject to drug testing, Buttigieg noted, marijuana is identified by name, not by reference to schedule or classification. "So even if it moves in its classification, we do not believe that would have a direct impact on that authority," he said. 

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Buttigieg said his department continues to evaluate any indirect impacts marijuana rescheduling may have on drug testing, but anyone subject to DOT marijuana screening currently, in his interpretation, would remain subject to screenings should the drug be rescheduled.

Marijuana and alcohol remain the most detected drugs in impaired driving crashes resulting in serious or fatal injuries. Between 2000 and 2018, crash deaths involving marijuana more than doubled, from 9% to 21.5%. 

Marijuana is recreationally legal in almost half the country (24 states) but remains off-limits for commercial vehicle drivers, regardless of the state they live in, where they are domiciled, or what state they are driving through. --Jason Cannon

[Related: Reclassifying marijuana: What it could mean for truckers, small fleet employers]

Former trucking company owner convicted for lying to FMCSA

A Rochester, New York-based trucking company owner was recently convicted by a federal jury for making false statements to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and conspiring to do the same in relation to a chameleon carrier scheme. The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Notably, the charges for making false statements on the OP-1 application for authority fall short of perjury charges, which are mentioned on the form as a punishment for willful misstatements.

As reported recently by Overdrive’s Alex Lockie, “FMCSA indicated that its legal team doesn't believe perjury, specifically, would apply to false information required on the form. The cases FMCSA have referred to DOT OIG ‘are usually considered under a federal statute that prohibits 'false statements,' which is broader and would catch things like false information on a form,’” FMCSA told Lockie.

According to a press release from the IRS, Tony Kirik, a.k.a. Anatoliy Kirik, operated a multiple million-dollar trucking business called Dallas Logistics. When applying to FMCSA for interstate operating authority, Kirik was found to have submitted false documents regarding the safety rating of his trucking business. Further, when undergoing compliance reviews and safety audits by the FMSCA, Kirik provided false statements and information regarding the many safety violations incurred by his business.

To trick FMSCA regarding the safety of this trucking business, Kirik started new companies using various family members’ names and an employee’s name to make it appear that these new companies were independent and not affiliated with the prior business that incurred the negative safety ratings, when in fact, the new company was merely an extension of the prior company.

[Related: Are double brokering entities committing perjury? FMCSA weighs in]

The original complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of Western New York by the U.S. government against Kirik, noted Dallas Logistics purported to be based in and operated out of Dallas, Texas, controlled by an individual identified as “J.Z.” and unaffiliated with any motor carrier. During a compliance review, however, “it became apparent Dallas Logistics was not based out of Dallas, Texas, but instead, was located in, and operated from, a location in Rochester, New York.”

Further investigation found that Dallas Logistics was an affiliate and reincarnation of Orange Transportation Services, another carrier owned by Kirik with a negative safety rating.

“Had the affiliation between Orange Transportation Services and Dallas Logistics been disclosed, Dallas Logistics’ rating would have been negatively impacted,” the complaint said. “Specifically, Dallas Logistics’ safety rating would have a Conditional safety rating at best.”

At trial, it was shown that Kirik’s actions jeopardized the safety of the nation’s highways and roadways from unsafe tractor-trailers, the IRS press release stated.

The verdict is the result of an investigation by the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS CI), under the direction of Thomas Fattorusso, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Office; and Special Agents of the Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Christopher Scharf, Northeast Region.

Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 28, 2024, before U.S. District Judge Charles J. Siragusa, who presided over the trial.

[Related: New York-based trucking company owner charged in chameleon carrier scheme]

I-17 closing Monday night

Interstate 17 is scheduled to be closed in both directions at J.W. Powell Boulevard (Exit 337) south of Flagstaff, Arizona, from 7 p.m. Monday, July 1, to 5 a.m. Tuesday, July 2, for bridge construction. 

A 10-foot vehicle width restriction will also be in place during the closure.

The Arizona DOT said traffic will detour along the off- and on-ramps at the J.W. Powell interchange during the overnight closure. Crews are building a new bridge to carry J.W. Powell Boulevard over the interstate.

Drivers should allow extra travel time and be prepared to slow down and merge safely when approaching the project’s work zones near Pulliam Airport and Fort Tuthill Park, ADOT added.

ADOT’s $8.2 million project to add the new J.W. Powell Boulevard bridge is scheduled for completion in fall 2024. The existing bridge will be removed after traffic is shifted to the new structure later this year. 

Iowa 80 celebrating 60th anniversary with custom cake at Jamboree

The Iowa 80 Truckstop is hosting a 60th anniversary celebration on Friday, July 12, as part of the Walcott Truckers Jamboree.

To help mark the occasion, Baltimore, Maryland-based bakery, Charm City Cakes, is creating a replica of the truck stop’s Super Truck Showroom out of cake. “It will truly be a one-of-a-kind cake. We’re excited to celebrate our 60th Anniversary with everyone,” said Iowa 80 VP of Marketing Heather DeBaillie. She added that the cake will feature the beloved yellow bobtail “Compatch Cadillac,” which is on display in the Super Truck Showroom, along with an Iowa landscape and the iconic Iowa 80 globe logo.

Cake will be served at 2:30 p.m. Friday, July 12, in the Super Truck Showroom. The public is welcome to see the cake and have a slice.

The Iowa 80 Truckstop first opened its doors to the public on June 4, 1964. The facility featured a small restaurant, store, and two diesel pumps. Iowa 80 now spans 85 developed acres and features over 900 truck parking spaces, 10 restaurant options, and a host of other driver amenities.

The 45th Annual Walcott Truckers Jamboree will be held July 11-13 at the Iowa 80 Truckstop in Walcott, Iowa. Admission and parking are free. Shuttles will be provided from the parking area to the event grounds. A full schedule of events can be found here.