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Impaired truck driver's record raise questions and concern about CDLs

Tuesday’s I-57 crash involving an impaired truck driver is raising questions and concerns about commercial driving licenses. (WCCU)

Tuesday’s I-57 crash involving an impaired truck driver is raising questions and concerns about commercial driving licenses.

Illinois State Police said 41-year-old Jess Clayton Plunkett of Arkansas admitted to smoking cannabis and snorting crushed pills just hours before that interstate crash that sent three people to the hospital. Police said the truck driver rear-ended three vehicles and the trailer of another semi. Plunkett is charged with two counts of aggravated driving under the influence of drugs, but the State's Attorney said Plunkett's criminal history shows he was convicted of a DUI in Missouri back in 1998.

"Serious tickets have to be way far back to get a CDL,” Lead instructor at Parkland College’s tractor-trailer training program, Sherry Jenkins said. “It could be three years it could be five years, some really serious offenses could be 10 years, so your motor vehicle record and your work history and your criminal record do matter.”

Getting a CDL requires three written tests and a 40-hour class -- almost like getting a regular driver’s license.

Jenkins said every company varies but in order to get a CDL the individual has to pass a background check with at least a 10-year clean record.

“Most companies will have a time limit and they will not take you until that time limit is met,” Jenkins said. “There needs to be a space of time where nothing has gone wrong and then if you meet that requirement then the past doesn't count.”

She also said some states have different laws and everything you do in your personal vehicle also matters, but if convicted of a DUI, say goodbye to your commercial driving privileges.

“Drugs are really frowned upon in this industry,” Jenkins said. “The legitimate trucking industry is serious about safety, does not put up with that."

Jenkins said patience and self-control are really important when it comes to truck driving.

“Remember that it's [the truck driver’s] responsibility to protect the driving public,” Jenkins said. "You're a professional driver on and off the job and something you do wrong off the job are going to have an impact on your job.”

Jenkins said drivers have to pass a drug test before and after applying for a CDL.

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