FMCSA slams brakes on two carrier companiesby Jana Ritter - Published: 12/10/2012
Louisiana based company Ben Gordon Enterprises (Gordon's Tree Service) and Illinois bus company Lincolnland Express (LEX), were both ordered to shut down operations Friday. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued orders to both companies for violating multiple trucking-related safety violations. The FMCSA has been driving their safety initiatives up to full gear, recently indicating they would impose the ultimate penalty on companies showing egregious disregard for the rules. These two companies are the latest examples of the FMCSA doing just that.
After conducting a thorough investigation in November 2012, the FMCSA found Gordon's Tree Service company had intentionally violated a federal out-of-service order by continuing to operate vehicles in willful disregard of critical safety regulations and continued to use drivers in direct violation of multiple regulations as well. Not only did the company use drivers without valid commercial driver's licenses (CDLs) or medical certificates, one non-CDL driver had already been involved in a crash without possessing a CDL and two drivers without medical certificates had prior arrests for driving under the influence and possession of alcohol. The FMCSA had also determined the company failed to implement an alcohol and controlled substance program, failed to maintain accident reports, failed to keep driver qualification files and failed to keep records related to vehicle maintenance and inspection reports.
On Friday, Lincolnland Express was ordered to temporarily shut down their operations while waiting for approval of their safety management plan addressing the numerous violations they were cited for last October. While the bus carrier company's owner, Robert Frazier said the violations were a result of a misunderstanding, he also agrees with the FMCSA's role in identifying problems and the need for companies to correct those problems. LEX submitted its 600-page plan to correct violations that include false reporting of records, operating buses that were not periodically inspected and failure to properly maintain vehicle parts. DOT data indicates in the last two years, 47 percent of LEX vehicle inspections showed violations needing to be corrected before the company can resume.
The FMCSA says that every year a small number of carriers try to avoid compliance or disguise non-compliance. Some carriers often go so far as to submit new applications under a different name after they have been placed out of service and persecuting these violators is the FMSCA's next step. Gaining new authority under this year's highway law, the agency proposes targeting carrier officers, employers, contractors, consultants and even employees who disregard the rules or permit others to do so. The FMSCA is also proposing a new criteria to determine ownership status of carriers and whether or not new carriers were created in order to avoid compliance, for example if the old and new company have equipment, facilities, insurance or customers in common.
The FMSCA stresses its need to take strong action to deter this kind of behavior and requests that comments on this recent proposal be submitted by January 14th, 2013.