A routine safety check on charter buses carrying 56 Nashville high school students to a state championship football game led to the arrest of a driver who was caught with a bottle of vodka on board, court documents released Monday show.
The Friday afternoon check in Cookeville led to Tennessee Highway Patrol officers discovering the condition of the bus driver, 58-year-old Robert Michael Hoskinson, who on Monday was arraigned on charges that included driving under the influence using a commercial vehicle.
According to an arrest affidavit, THP officers working bus traffic at Tennessee Technological University were conducting a Department of Transportation inspection when three Wise Coaches buses pulled into the football game escorted by local police.
Two THP officers approached the buses after the passengers got out about 1:30 p.m. and told the drivers they were going to conduct safety inspections. Officers conducted an inspection on one of the buses and placed it out of commission because of reasons that included poor tire quality.
As an officer started to inspect a second bus, he said the driver, identified as Hoskinson, had red, watery eyes and a strong odor of alcohol. After receiving permission, the officer searched Hoskinson’s bag and found a half-empty bottle of vodka, the affidavit states.
The officer said he also found a water bottle with a mixture of water and vodka on the bus.
“I asked him when the last time he had drank anything and he said three a.m. this morning,” the officer wrote in the arrest report.
Arrest reports state Hoskinson failed a field sobriety test, took a breath test and was also transported to a hospital where he submitted to a blood test. According to court documents, he had a blood alcohol content of 0.034 and was then transported to the Putnam County Jail.
Under state and federal laws commercial drivers cannot drive with a BAC equal to or above 0.04. Non-commercial motorists cannot drive with a BAC equal to or above 0.08.
Authorities said they arrested Hoskinson on the DUI charges because he failed the field sobriety test, among other factors.
Hoskinson appeared in Putnam County General Sessions Court on Monday before Judge John Hudson and was arraigned on charges of DUI using a commercial vehicle and reckless endangerment, a clerk court said. He was also slapped with an additional misdemeanor charge of having an open container in the bus, court officials said.
A judge assigned Hoskinson a court-appointed attorney and he’s due back in court for another hearing Wednesday.
He was being held in the Putnam County Jail on a $55,000 bond Monday, THP Sgt. Greg Tramel said.
CPA had leased three buses from Wise Coaches to make the trip to Cookeville, the highway patrol said. After arresting Hoskinson, THP officers placed two of the buses out of service, finding the motor coaches had defective tires, according to THP.
Students were transported back to Nashville by Putnam County Schools buses, and CPA officials requested a bill for the trip Monday morning, according to Putnam schools transportation supervisor Terry Randolph.
CPA headmaster Nate Morrow thanked Putnam County officials for keeping students safe.
“Student safety is our top priority, and we’re so grateful to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, the Putnam County Sheriff, and Putnam County School(s) for their gracious assistance in transporting our students safely back to Nashville,” he said in an email statement.
Wise Coaches Inc., in business since 1998, hasn’t recorded any serious incidents, major safety violations or driving under the influence cases in the last year, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records. The business lists more than 50 buses and 90 drivers.
Its owner, Alan Wise, wrote in email Monday that his company has a zero tolerance policy for any alcohol or substance abuse.
Wise said Hoskinson has been suspended from the company pending the results of the criminal investigation. He was hired in February 2014, Wise said, and has a clean driving record with the company.
“We take seriously our responsibility for conducting safe operation for our passengers and the traveling public,” Wise wrote.”We are certainly investigating and will take appropriate actions.”
Update: Wise said Tuesday that the THP’s decision on the buses was reversed because the tread on the tires did not meet the out of service criteria.
Reach Jason Gonzales at 615-259-8047 and on Twitter @ByJasonGonzales. Reach Natalie Neysa Alund at 615-259-8072. Follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.