By CLAIRE GALOFARO and RYAN J. FOLEY, Associated Press
The state of Florida said Tuesday that it had suspended commercial driving privileges for a truck driver three months before he was arrested for driving a tractor-trailer so hot and so crammed with immigrants that 10 people died.
James Matthew Bradley Jr. failed to provide the state with a current medical card, which federal law requires commercial drivers to supply to show they are physically fit for the road. Alexis Bakofsky, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, confirmed that Bradley’s commercial driving privileges were disqualified on April 12 and said that it Bakofsky would have been illegal for him to have held a second license from another state.
Authorities say Bradley’s truck was discovered Sunday morning in a Walmart parking lot with 10 people inside dead. Many more had to be taken to the hospital and treated for dehydration and heat stroke.
Bradley, 60, now faces charges of illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain resulting in death, possibly punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.
Florida state records show that his medical card on file expired on March 15 and he was notified to update it. He never did.
Bradley’s fiance told The Associated Press that he is from Florida originally but had been spending most of his time in Louisville as his health worsened. Bradley had diabetes that he hadn’t properly treated, she said, and had to have a series of amputations, most recently the removal of his leg this spring.
It is not clear if those medical conditions were related to the disqualification of his commercial driver’s license.
“The medical card certification is extremely serious business. Drivers watch it like hawks because you can’t drive a truck without it,” said Kenneth S. Armstrong, the president of the Florida Trucking Association who reviewed Bradley’s driving record for the Associated Press. “When you’re moving a 50, 60, 70, 80,000-pound vehicle along the road, we hold those people to a higher health standard than a typical passenger car driver.”
The law requires commercial drivers to be screened by a doctor for serious medical conditions that might impair their ability to safely operate their vehicles.
Bradley, a lifelong truck driver, had worked for Pyle Transportation, a trucking company in Iowa, for several years, and was preparing to strike out on his own once he got a prosthetic leg this month.