Small carrier, driver shut down after numerous safety violations found in compliance audit

Updated Mar 21, 2021

FMCSA shuts down Alabama-based carrier, driver 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.

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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.

Diesel prices reach two-year high with latest increase

After increasing for the 19th consecutive week, diesel fuel prices across the U.S. are now at their highest since December 2018.

During the week ending March 15, the U.S.’ average for a gallon of on-highway diesel is now $3.191, up 4.8 cents over the previous week, according to the Department of Energy’s weekly report. This also marks the highest national average for diesel since the week ending Dec. 3, 2018, when prices were $3.207 per gallon across the nation.

During the most recent week, prices increased in all regions with the most significant increase being seen in the Rocky Mountain region, where prices jumped 14.5 cents.

The nation’s most expensive fuel is in California at $3.951 per gallon, followed by the Central Atlantic region at $3.292 per gallon.

The cheapest diesel is in the Gulf Coast region at $2.988 per gallon, followed by the Lower Atlantic region at $3.064 per gallon.

Prices in other regions, according to DOE, are:

  • New England – $3.082
  • Midwest – $3.169
  • Rocky Mountain – $3.276
  • West Coast less California – $3.27

ProMiles’ numbers during the same week saw fuel prices increase by 7.9 cents, bringing its national average to $3.111 per gallon.

According to ProMiles’ Fuel Surcharge Index, the most expensive diesel can be found in California at $3.825 per gallon, and the cheapest can be found in the Gulf Coast region at $2.954 per gallon.