Small fleet, driver banned from operating by FMCSA after safety violations found

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Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, March 17, 2021: 

Alabama-based small fleet, driver shut down for numerous safety violations
An Alabama-based towing company has been effectively shut down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration after investigators found the three-truck fleet to pose an imminent hazard to public safety. The agency also shut down one of the company’s drivers.

According to FMCSA, during a March 2021 compliance investigation conducted on Birmingham, Alabama-based Woods Dependable Towing, numerous serious violations of federal safety statutes were found, including:

Failing to have a systematic inspection, repair and maintenance program for vehicles. FMCSA says in the past two years ending January 2021, Woods’ vehicles were subject to 31 unannounced roadside inspections and, on 16 occasions, the trucks were immediately ordered out-of-service for serious safety violations. Violations included inoperable lights; deficient braking systems; and flat tires and/or tires dangerously worn with exposed fabric, ply or structural belt material. During its investigation, FMCSA found no evidence that vehicles were periodically inspected as required. In two instances, annual inspection forms were found to be falsified.

Failing to systematically monitor its drivers as required to ensure compliance with federal hours of service regulations. Investigators found that drivers had submitted falsified records-of-duty status – and in the instance of driver Samuel Lee Wren, who was also shut down by FMCSA – evidence that he routinely disabled his ELD. While driving for Woods, within a span of approximately three weeks in the fall of 2020, Wren had two separate single-vehicle crashes – one in Tennessee and another in Ohio. In both instances, he received driving citations from state law enforcement officers. FMCSA investigators found that prior to and on the day of the Tennessee crash, Wren had exceeded his allowable driving hours and falsified his logs.

Failure to ensure its CDL drivers are qualified. FMCSA found that even though Wren in May 2020 had been informed he had tested positive for a controlled substance, prohibiting him from operating a commercial vehicle, Woods Dependable Towing still allowed him to continue driving their trucks.

Woods may be assessed civil penalties of up to $27,813 for each violation of the out-of-service order. The carrier may also be assessed civil penalties of at least $11,125 for providing transportation requiring federal operating authority registration and up to $15,691 for operating a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce without necessary USDOT registration. If violations are determined to be willful, criminal penalties may be imposed, including a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for a term not to exceed one year.

Separately, Wren may be assessed civil penalties of up to $1,895 for each violation of his federal imminent hazard order. Knowing and/or willful violation of the order may also result in criminal penalties. Wren may not operate a commercial vehicle until he successfully completes the required return-to-duty process overseen by a substance abuse professional.

Cargo Transporters launches new “All In” pay package
Truckload dry freight carrier Cargo Transporters (CCJ Top 250, No. 182) announced a new “All In” compensation package for its new and current single and team drivers as part of a focus to provide drivers with personal flexibility and financial control.

The new package combines existing holiday and vacation pay, and a productivity bonus, with the driver’s base rate per mile, resulting in drivers being paid a prorated amount each mile. This option gives drivers that select “All In” the control of receiving those funds up front rather than a lump sum payment.

The new optional program is offered in addition to the company’s Mile Standard compensation package, which drivers can choose to receive the current base pay with additional payments for holiday, vacation or productivity bonus.

The combined All In rate is paid weekly based on a driver’s Rand McNally Practical Book mileage. The starting pay for the new package will be 55 cents per mile for single drivers. All In pay rates have been adjusted for team drivers, and for drivers with more than 1 million miles and those with 10 and 20 years of service with the company.