Card-skimming, diesel theft ring busted in Florida

Trucking news and briefs for Friday, May 24, 2024:

Five arrested in multi-state pump skimming, diesel theft ring

An investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several Florida law enforcement agencies has resulted in the arrest of five individuals for their alleged participation in a multi-state fuel pump skimming device conspiracy involving the theft of diesel fuel.

A press release from U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg in the Middle District of Florida states the five arrested allegedly worked together, and with others, to place skimmers on pumps in north Florida and other states. Using the account numbers stolen by the skimmers, they made counterfeit credit and debit cards, then used them to primarily purchase diesel fuel.

Utilizing vehicles with a bladder/container to pump the fraudulently purchased diesel fuel into, the conspirators would offload the stolen fuel into containers at a fuel yard, court documents allege, to be sold to a gas station associated with one of the co-conspirators.

The five arrested were:

  • Luis Edel Trujillo Pena, 29, Miami
  • Deyvis Hernandez, 37, Miami
  • Luis Ernesto Vigil Ochoa, 32, Miami
  • Isvaldo Guerra Perdomo, 38, Jacksonville
  • Deonelky Tabares Cid, 36, Tampa

They were each charged with conspiracy, four counts of wire fraud, 15 counts of access device fraud, and three counts of aggravated identity theft.

If convicted, each faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count of wire fraud, up to 10 for each count of device fraud, five on the conspiracy count, a minimum mandatory penalty of 2 years for each identity theft count, and payment of restitution to the victims.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, U.S. General Services Administration -- Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Secret Service -- Jacksonville Field Office. 

[Related: Fuel payments providers boost theft protections amid card-skimming explosion]

Truck tonnage declined in April

The amount of freight hauled by trucks continued to decline in April, signifying a continuing soft freight market.

ATA Truck Tonnage Index April 2024ATA's Truck Tonnage Index declined 1.2% in April, following a 2.2% decrease in March.ATA

The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index declined 1.2% in April after decreasing 2.2% in March. In April, the index equaled 111.7 (2015=100) compared with 113.1 in March.

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“The truck freight market remained soft in April as seasonally-adjusted volumes fell for the second straight month,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. â€śWith a rebound in freight remaining elusive, it is likely that additional capacity will leave the industry in the face of continued softness in the market.”

[Related: How owner-operators might avoid joining the 'capacity reduction' ranks]

Compared with April 2023, the index fell 1.5%, which was the 14th straight year-over-year decline. In March, the index was down 1.3% from a year earlier. 

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 112.2 in April, 1.7% below March. ATA’s For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index is dominated by contract freight as opposed to spot market freight. 

[Related: Fuel prices continue to fall, but Roadcheck rates bump fails to materialize]

Covenant seeks waiver to allow pre-CDL drivers to drive without CDL holder in passenger seat

Covenant Transport and Landair Transport, jointly doing business as Covenant Logistics, are petitioning the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for a waiver to allow pre-CDL drivers to operate without a CDL holder in the passenger seat.

The exemption, if granted, would allow Covenant Logistics to employ a driver to haul freight immediately after he or she passes their CDL skills test and while their CDL documentation is being processed by their state of domicile. Covenant’s petition states that it recruits and develops driver candidates with good safety records who have graduated from established driver training schools.

It hires approximately 1,200 new drivers each year through driver training schools and estimates that approximately 2,000 drivers annually would operate CMVs under the requested exemption.

The company said that prior to the implementation of 49 CFR 383.25(a)(1), states routinely issued temporary CDLs, valid only in the state of domicile, to drivers who had successfully passed a CDL skills test. This process made it possible for Covenant to immediately designate a new driver as on duty, and direct that driver to their state of domicile without entering a second driver into an on-duty status.

Covenant said it is currently not able to employ a new driver until the driver’s home state issues a CDL, and the company must choose either to wait for the driver to obtain the CDL physical credential from their home state before starting on-duty freight operations or send the driver home in an unproductive non-driving capacity.

Covenant said this results in supply chain inefficiency and a lost employment opportunity for the new driver. States may take weeks to properly document and update the status of a new driver’s CDL after they have passed the CDL skills test, and Covenant is not able to employ the driver during this time without having a second driver in the front seat of the CMV. This administrative waiting period has caused a significant burden on Covenant’s operations, the company said.

FMCSA will accept public comments on the request here through June 24.        

[Related: Ditch the dime-a-dozen approach to drivers: Carriers need value-attitude adjustment]