Former FMCSA investigator pleads guilty to extortion

Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023:

Former FMCSA investigator pleads guilty to extortion charges

Patrick Gorena, a former border investigator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, has entered a guilty plea to extortion under color of law, according to U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani in the Southern District of Texas.

As part of his plea, Gorena admitted that when auditing a trucking company, he did not report safety violations that would have exposed the company to potential fines and the loss of their DOT license. In return, Gorena demanded $3,500.

However, he ultimately accepted $2,000 from an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a representative of the trucking company.

Gorena, who was charged in November, faces up to 20 years in prison at a scheduled April 18 sentencing.

[Related: Former FMCSA employee faces bribery, extortion charges

Used truck sales increased to close out 2022

Preliminary used Class 8 retail volumes (same dealer sales) increased 20% month-over-month in December, but were still 25% lower compared to December 2021, according to the latest preliminary release of the "State of the Industry: U.S. Classes 3-8 Used Trucks" report published by ACT Research.

ACT also reported average retail price and miles declined 1% and 4% month-over-month, respectively, while average age declined 1% from November’s readings.

Compared to December 2021, the average retail price and miles declined by 3%, while age increased by 2%.

The used truck market in December was one of few bright spots for the economy and trucking in general, according to ACT.

“The economy, freight market, and even the commercial vehicle industry are sprinkled with bits of data that suggest the situation might be better than some originally envisioned. December used truck volumes are one of those data points,” said Steve Tam, vice president at ACT Research. “History suggests sales usually tick in at year end, but the 20% month-over-month increase was more than three times the typical growth rate.”

Tam added “there is still solid demand for used trucks of all vintages. Supply also seems to be increasing, thanks to better new truck sales.”

Demand has also decreased to a point where prices will continue to fall, Tam said. 

"The ride is going to be a rough one, but when the industry comes out of the other end of the cycle, we believe prices will bottom above the low point of the previous cycle’s trough," he said. "Then it will be off to the races as the cycle resets.”

[Related: POLL: If you've financed a truck recently, what was the interest rate?]

TA focusing on franchising, acquisitions for growth

TravelCenters of America announced Friday that it reached its annual target in 2022 with the signing of 30 new franchise agreements during the year.

The company said it remains focused on franchising for accelerated network growth and continues to see year-over-year franchise signing growth. In 2022, TA opened three new franchised sites and plans to open 20 franchised locations in 2023.

In addition, TA said it’s also focused on acquisitions for network growth. The company acquired seven existing travel centers (six with truck maintenance facilities), which began operating as TA or Petro locations in 2022, and three standalone truck service facilities, which began operating as TA Truck Service during the year.

“The success of TA’s franchise and acquisition programs is a critical component of our strategic plan, and over time will add well located facilities to better serve our guests across the country,” said Jon Pertchik, CEO of TA. “I am excited by meeting our 2022 target for growth in franchise sites and excited to see our new franchise partners flag their travel centers with the TA and Petro brands.”

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