I write frequently here about the importance of federal trucking safety regulations. Commercial drivers and their employers are much more heavily regulated than ordinary drivers. Drivers are subject to special rules for medical fitness to drive and drug testing; the trucks are subject to inspections; and companies must keep safety records and undergo periodic safety audits. All of these rules are designed to prevent catastrophic and entirely preventable tractor-trailer crashes. But complying with these rules is more expensive than ignoring them—at least until a tragedy triggers a big rig injury lawsuit—so some trucking companies prefer to ignore the rules. This week, owners of two companies went to court over their attempts to skirt safety regulations. Heronda McWilliams and Isaac McWilliams of Alabama, and Irfan Dushku of Massachusetts, were both convicted of crimes.
According to Truckinginfo.com, the McWilliamses ran IDM Transportation in 2010, when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducted a safety review and found it so lacking that it issued an out-of-service order. The order prohibited the McWilliamses from starting a new company without disclosing their old one, but that’s exactly what they did when they filed with the FMCSA to operate BM&L Trucking. Not surprisingly, when the FMCSA conducted a safety audit of BM&L, it found a slew of safety problems similar to those of IDM. It again issued an out-of-service order to both companies and both McWilliamses, but they continued to conduct trucking business. The McWilliamses were ultimately charged with, and pleaded guilty to, criminal violations of the FMCSA order.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Dushku attempted to avoid regulatory compliance by bribing the FMCSA inspector who came to his business, Korca Enterprises, Inc. He offered the investigator $1,000 to prevent a negative safety evaluation. In the two years prior to the bribery incident, Korca had had 12 random roadside inspections. Of those, seven resulted in trucks being placed out of service immediately, leading to a 58 percent vehicle out-of-service rate. The national average, an FMCSA spokesman said, is 20.72 percent. Korca also had high rates of safety problems in two categories of the FMCSA’s new compliance measurement system, CSA: unsafe driving and hours of service compliance. Dushku was criminally charged with bribery of a public official and pleaded guilty in September. The prosecution recommended six months of home confinement and a year of probation.
These stories show a disturbing lack of safety consciousness among at least some of the people who run trucking companies. Dushku’s attempt to bribe the inspector suggests that he knew Korca couldn’t pass an inspection. But rather than protect himself, his drivers and the innocent motorists around them by ensuring that his fleet was safe, he apparently thought it was better to bribe an inspector. The same is true of the Alabama company owners, who preferred to just change their company’s name rather than fix the safety problems the FMCSA found. If they hadn’t been caught, these unsafe trucks could be sharing our highways, potentially triggering a serious semi truck crash caused by over-tired drivers, medical or substance abuse problems, or badly maintained equipment.
If your family has suffered a serious injury or a loss caused by a dangerous, unsafe trucker or trucking company, you should call Carey, Danis & Lowe to discuss how we can help. To learn more or set up a free consultation, call us today at 1-877-678-3400 or send us an email.
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