Truck driver had prohibited CDL, failed multiple drug tests before fatal bus crash, affidavit states

Records show employer did not check Jerry Hernandez’s history when they hired him

Video released by Hays ISD shows a concrete pumping truck veering into the oncoming lane and colliding with a school bus carrying pre-k students returning from a field trip. (Hays ISD)

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas – A truck driver accused of crashing into a Hays CISD school bus — killing a 5-year-old boy on board and a 33-year-old man in another car — failed multiple drug tests and had a “prohibited” license at the time of the crash, according to court records.

Jerry Hernandez, 43, has been charged with criminally negligent homicide for the March 22 crash. The charge is a state jail felony, the least severe of all felonies, punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

He told troopers that he smoked marijuana and used cocaine, and only slept about three hours before the crash on State Highway 21 in western Bastrop County, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

The affidavit also states his employer, FJM Concrete, failed to look up his drug test record and properly vet him when they hired him.

Records from the federal Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, which keeps data on commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders, showed that Hernandez refused a reasonable suspicion test in September 2020, the affidavit states. The test should have warranted that he be referred to a substance abuse professional for evaluation, KTBC reported.

“He should have been removed from performing safety-sensitive functions at this point by the company he was driving for at that time,” investigators said.

In follow-up tests, he tested positive for marijuana in 2022 and cocaine in 2023, resulting in a prohibited license.

However, his CDL was still eligible in Texas due to a loophole.

“... State driver’s licensing agencies are not required to downgrade CDL statuses until 11/18/2024 according to changes in the Federal Register,” the affidavit states.

His employer, FJM Concrete, did not verify the status of his CDL through the Clearinghouse, the affidavit states.

The affidavit states that the owner, Francisco Martinez, “should have been aware of his status through the Clearinghouse.” On Monday, Martinez was charged in a separate case for employing an unlicensed driver, KXAN reported.

Investigators said lack of sleep, drug use and a long workday likely caused Hernandez to crash the truck into the bus.

He “should have been aware that his conduct leading up to and during the crash presented a substantial and unjustifiable risk of causing the crash,” the affidavit states.

The crash killed one pre-kindergarten student on the bus, identified as Ulises Rodriguez Montoya, and the driver of another vehicle that was in the lane behind the bus, identified as UT student Ryan Wallace, 33.

The bus was taking pre-K students from Tom Green Elementary School and 11 adults back to the school following a field trip to the Bastrop Zoo.

Hays Consolidated Independent School District released videos from cameras on that school bus that show the oncoming concrete truck drifting across the double line in front of the bus at 1:58 p.m.

The bus driver steers to the right to try to avoid hitting the truck, but they collide head-on with the truck about halfway into the lane.

Superintendent Eric Wright said a total of 51 were injured, including the bus driver. All students have since been released from area hospitals.

After the fatal crash, troopers spoke with Hernandez at the hospital. He initially admitted to using marijuana and cocaine in the past but not during the week of the crash. When asked if he wanted to provide a blood sample, he refused.

He stated the sample would test positive for drugs. He then admitted to smoking marijuana the night before the crash and using cocaine the morning of, the affidavit states.

He said he slept about three hours the night before the crash and took a 15-minute nap in his truck before leaving a job site. He also kept falling asleep during the interview.

The affidavit states Hernandez “seemed to be unaware of the magnitude of the crash he was involved in and never mentioned striking a school bus.”

Hernandez told the trooper that at the time of the crash, a white SUV traveling in front of his truck suddenly braked, causing him to swerve. However, investigators said, the witness testimony and video disputed the claim.

The affidavit states a fourth vehicle was involved in the crash, but that driver was not injured.

The bus didn’t have seatbelts because it was a 2011 model.

About the Authors

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 25 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.

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