Lawmakers look to close communication gap between police, trucking companies

Police don't report driver arrests to companies

CINCINNATI -- Watching a semitrailer jackknife across Interstate 74 was a scary experience for Tracy Grome.

"I started screaming and blowing my horn," she said. "'Stop!'"

But when Grome learned that the driver was high on heroin, she was livid. Even worse, the driver, Scott Kinmon, had been arrested two weeks earlier after he admitted to a police officer that he'd used heroin while sitting in the same parked semi cab.

"I could've died from a heroin overdose, and I've never done drugs in my life," Grome said.

Last month, the 9 On Your Side I-Team uncovered the communication breakdown between law enforcement and trucking companies that has contributed to some drugged drivers staying on the roads after they're arrested. 

MORE: Trucking companies don't always know if a driver is arrested for drugs, and they keep driving

"What are the trucking companies doing?" Grome asked. "Were they aware of his arrest a month ago?"

Kinmon's company told the I-Team he lied about his first arrest, but they didn't realize it until after the crash on I-74. Law enforcement isn't required to notify trucking companies about driver arrests.

The drivers are required to tell the the companies, but that doesn't always happen.

Now, some lawmakers say they want to address the problem. When Ohio Sen. Cecil Thomas learned of the I-Team's findings, he said he "was shocked."

Thomas said he wants to try to fix the communication breakdown.

"The onus should be on us to bring awareness to the company itself," he said.

Thomas said he believes the fix is to establish a state database so trucking companies can check if job applicants has ever been convicted of a related offense.

"Given the fact that we are now faced with such a serious heroin epidemic, this is all the more reason to begin to look at how can we fashion the law to begin to address this problem," Thomas said.

He also said it would be a good idea to require law enforcement to contract trucking companies to inform them when a driver is arrested or charged with a drug-related crime. 

"I’m willing to introduce legislation to require our law enforcement personnel to contact, to make it legal for them to contact … the companies," Thomas said.

It will take time before such a bill is ready. Thomas said there's lots of research to do first, and work to be done with the trucking industry. He said any legislation he introduces probably wouldn't go anywhere in Columbus until sometime next year. 

Because trucking is an interstate industry, there are also issues with jurisdiction. Each state has its own laws for the trucking industry. Many, like Ohio and Kentucky, choose to enforce federal rules. 

Sen. Sherrod Brown said it was possible federal lawmakers would look into the issue, too.

"I think your series will, once ... we see all the evidence, might cause us to take some action on the intersection, if you will, of opioids and truck driving," he said.

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