More companies, individuals charged for allegedly 'deleting' emission control systems

Trucking news and briefs for Friday, April 28, 2023:

11 people, three companies charged for ‘deleting’ emissions systems

Three companies and 11 individuals have been charged with violating the Clean Air Act in an aftermarket scheme to disable the emissions control systems of heavy-duty trucks.

U.S. Attorney Mark Totten, for the Western District of Michigan, said that though the investigation is still ongoing, the case “is one of the largest of its kind ever charged in the United States.”

The three companies charged are Diesel Freak LLC, of Gaylord, Michigan; Accurate Truck Service, LLC, of Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Griffin Transportation, Inc., also of Grand Rapids. Overdrive has reached out to Diesel Freak for comment and will update this story with any response.

Nine of the 11 individuals charged -- Ryan Lalone, Wade Lalone, Douglas Larsen, Craig Scholten, Ryan Bos, Robert Swainston, Randy Clelland, Scott DeKock, and Glenn Hoezee -- have signed plea agreements indicating their intent to plead guilty to a felony information. The two other defendants, Dustin Rhine and James Sisson, were indicted by a federal grand jury. Arraignments and change of plea hearings will occur on dates to be set by the U.S. District Court.

According to public records filed in the case, Ryan Lalone owns Diesel Freak and Wade Lalone, Rhine, and Sisson were employed there. Accurate Truck Service is owned by Larsen, Scholten, and Bos, and Swainston and Clelland were employed there. Griffin Transportation is owned by Scholten and Bos. DeKock used to own a shipping company, at which Hoezee was employed.

[Related: EPA cracks down on emission system ‘defeat devices’]

According to a press release, Accurate Truck Service removed or altered the emissions-control hardware components of vehicles with heavy-duty diesel engines. Diesel Freak reprogrammed the engine computers of the vehicles so that they would continue to function even after the hardware was removed or altered. Known as “deleting” emissions controls, the above process can improve performance/fuel economy and save maintenance costs, but it also increases emissions output.

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Griffin Transportation and the company DeKock formerly owned engaged Accurate Truck Service and Diesel Freak to “delete” trucks owned, operated or leased by the companies. During the investigation, Diesel Freak was found to be involved in at least 362 deletions; Accurate Truck Service in at least 83 deletions; Griffin Transportation in at least 12 deletions; and DeKock’s former company in at least four deletions. 

Accurate Truck Service and Griffin Transportation have agreed to pay a combined $1 million fine. Diesel Freak has agreed to pay a $750,000 fine subject to defense arguments regarding inability to pay. Any fine is a part of the criminal sentence and ultimately within the discretion of the sentencing judge.

A conviction for conspiracy is subject to a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000 for an individual, $500,000 for an organization, or twice the gain from the offense, among other penalties. A conviction for violating the Clean Air Act carries a prison term of up to two years and the same fines, among other penalties.

[Related: Diesel shops fined $600K for manufacturing, selling, installing emissions 'defeat devices']

Legislation would ease entry into trucking for military vets

U.S. Representatives on Thursday helped introduce a bipartisan bill to streamline the commercial driver's license process for veterans looking to use their GI benefits to pay CDL education programs.

The bipartisan bill is led by U.S. Reps. Chuck Edwards (R-North Carolina) and Chris Pappas (D-New Hampshire). Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Virginia) is an original cosponsor alongside Rep. Eli Crane (R-Arizona). A companion bill is led in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska) and Alex Padilla (D-California).

Right now, if an approved trucking school opens a secondary facility in a new location, existing laws require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and state regulators to deny the branch’s ability to receive GI benefits for two years.

To shrink this wait time, the Veteran Improvement Commercial Driver License Act would exempt new branches of established commercial driver-training facilities from this statutory waiting period, provided the primary training facility has been approved to receive these benefits by the VA and state approving agencies. By clarifying this two-year moratorium statute, the bill would allow veterans more accessibility to nearby CDL schools and lead to remunerative careers in the industry.

Under the legislation, CDL schools must still comply with state and VA rules regarding curriculum standards to ensure no programs are exploiting veterans or offering fraudulent courses.

The bill is endorsed by several nationwide veteran service organizations, labor groups, and trucking industry leaders, including the American Trucking Associations, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Commercial Vehicle Training Association, Nebraska Trucking Association and more. 

“When the brave men and women in our armed forces return home, the last thing they should have to worry about is red tape preventing them from realizing the American dream that they fought to defend,” said Chris Spear, President & CEO, ATA. “Improving veterans’ access to CDL programs will open the door of opportunity to good-paying, in-demand jobs in the trucking industry.”

[Related: FMCSA's under-21 pilot program worth the hassle?

Trimac Transportation acquires small bulk fleet, warehouser

Trimac Transportation has acquired American Industrial Partners (AIP) Logistics, a Central Ohio-based specialist in bulk terminal services, transportation and warehousing for the plastics, liquid chemical, food grade storage and metal production industries.

AIP operates a fleet of 13 tractors and 119 trailers. Its 52-acre property, located in in Wapakoneta, Ohio, just south of Lima, Ohio, is home to cold, dry and food grade warehousing, bulk transloading and storage with access to CSX Transportation's rail lines, and dry van, reefer, dry bulk and bulk liquid transportation. The location has indoor rail access and 70 railcar spots for rail transloading and storage.

The property is positioned on the busy I-75 corridor within proximity to several major shippers, including many current Trimac customers. It's also halfway between Cincinnati and the Detroit-Windsor U.S./Canada border crossing. 

"We are excited about this next step in our U.S. growth," said Matt Faure, Trimac President and CEO, adding that AIP provides a strong base from which to build a trucking branch with high density. "The integration with a leading logistics company such as AIP will place Trimac in an excellent position for its continued growth and contribution to business partners and communities in this region.”

Founded in 1982 by Charles Kantner, AIP was originally known as Riverside Storage, offering basic warehousing for dry food ingredients. Today, AIP employs a staff to service more than 450,000 square feet of storage space, a transportation fleet, and a rail terminal that serves customers worldwide.

Kantner will stay on for a transitional period immediately to provide expertise. Currently, the business is made up of approximately 38% trucking, 42% warehousing, and 20% transloading/other.

Trimac said the acquisition is part of its five-year strategy to further position itself as a leader in bulk transportation, wash and maintenance.

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