As small-fleet owners face charges, confusion ensnares popular ELD

Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, March 3, 2021: 

Small-fleet owners charged for log app tampering, lying to crash investigators
Two former owners of a since-closed trucking company, Westfield Transport out of Massachusetts, have been indicted on charges of falsifying the fleet’s log records, instructing drivers to falsify their logs and lying to investigators in the wake of a fatal crash that killed seven in June 2019

The two men face up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $1.5 million if found guilty. Dunyadar Gasanov, aka Damien Gasanov, 36, was indicted on one count of falsification of records, one count of conspiracy to falsify records and one count of making a false statement to a federal investigator. Dartanayan Gasanov, 35, was indicted on one count of falsification of records. Authorities allege that, in the weeks leading up to the crash, the Gasanovs falsified their drivers’ logbooks and instructed at least one other employee at Westfield to falsify logs, too.

A new entrant audit conducted of Westfield by the U.S. DOT in 2016 shows that the company at that time was operating eight power units. 

A report issued in December by the National Transportation Safety Board says the driver, 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovzkyy, was operating a 2016 Dodge pickup towing a car-hauling trailer. The NTSB report indicates he was under the influence of “multiple drugs” and alcohol at the time and had a history of impaired driving. NTSB concluded Zhukovzkyy should have had his CDL revoked by the state of Massachusetts before the crash occurred.

Zhukovzkyy was running a paper log at the time of the crash, but the company broadly employed KeepTruckin’s e-log app at the time in AOBRD form. The crash occurred prior to the December 2019 date by which all drivers were required to transition from AOBRD- to ELD-spec devices. NTSB says the company manipulated KeepTruckin’s hardware and software so as to falsify their logs.

The FMCSA conducted a compliance audit of Westfield two months after the crash and cited the carrier for AOBRD violations.

The board went on to recommend in its December report that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration remove KeepTruckin from the list of certified ELD vendors until the company could “ensure its product meets federal regulations.”           

KeepTruckin has strongly pushed back on that recommendation, noting that NTSB seems confused by the difference between AOBRD- and ELD-spec requirements.

The company hired an expert in FMCSA regulations, Dave Osiecki, president of Scopelitus Transportation Consulting, to review the case. After reading the NTSB docket, Osiecki concluded that the NTSB investigator did not have a firm grasp of the ELD rules, and called the recommendation to remove KeepTruckin from the FMCSA registry “baseless.”

The company says it’s confident that FMCSA will not remove it from the ELD device registry.

Navistar agrees to Traton's takeover bid
Ending a dance between the two companies that has spanned nearly five years, Navistar stockholders Tuesday approved Traton's takeover bid at their annual meeting.

Traton, Volkswagen's commercial truck arm, will acquire all the outstanding common shares of Navistar for $44.50 per share – a deal worth about $3.7 billion. The transaction is expected to close late this spring. 

Dialogue between Navistar and Volkswagen – which also operates the MAN and Scania business units in Europe and abroad – began in 2015 on opportunities to synergize and strengthen each company, culminating in Volkswagen’s investment. Volkswagen previously held 16.8% of the maker of International Trucks, a stake it acquired as part of a procurement joint venture the two companies entered into in 2016.

In January 2020, it offered $35 a share to acquire the rest of the company. In September, Traton bumped its offer to $43 per share. A month later, Navistar countered an expiring “take it or leave it” letter from Traton with a higher, and final, asking price of $44.50. 

Traton CEO Matthias Gründler earlier this year said combining the two companies will enhance each's "ability to meet the demands of new regulations and rapidly developing technologies in connectivity, propulsion and autonomous driving for customers around the world. Navistar has been a valuable partner, and we are confident this combination will deliver compelling strategic and financial benefits, create enhanced opportunities for both Navistar and Traton, and best position us to drive sustained value in the evolving global commercial vehicle industry.”

Traton and Navistar each also hold a minority position in self-driving tech company TuSimple. Traton, as part of the partnership, was slated to develop self-driving trucks for the European market. Navistar was to co-develop SAE Level 4 self-driving trucks targeted for production by 2024. –Jason Cannon, CCJ

Loadsmart adds flatbed to freight-matching platform
Digital freight broker Loadsmart has added flatbed freight to its service offerings, the company announced Wednesday, with loads available with dynamic pricing and instant booking. Flatbed loads join existing dry van and reefer freight, as well as less-than-truckload and drayage, available via Loadsmart's freight-matching platform. The company says The Home Depot has already joined as a shipper customer pushing flatbed freight to Loadsmart's system. 

Averitt boosts regional truckload, flatbed driver pay
To help celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021, Averitt Express is boosting pay for its newly hired regional truckload and flatbed drivers.

Regional drivers will now start at 50 cents per mile, or $1,200 over five days weekly. Pay will increase to 52 cents per mile after one year with a hazmat endorsement, the company says.

Regional flatbed drivers will start at 52 cents per mile, or $1,375 over five days weekly, and will increase to 54 cents per mile after a year with a hazmat endorsement.

Additional pay items that make up Averitt’s “More Than Cents Per Mile” package include minimum mile pay, per diem, layover, multi-stop and detention pay, plus additional amounts for assisting within Averitt’s LTL linehaul network.

Averitt also offers a driver referral program that pays up to $2,750 for the hiring of a referred candidate, and a rewards program that incentivizes positive actions such as achieving operational goals and safe-driving milestones.

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