Every year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Department of Transportation's subagency that oversees truck and bus safety, shuts down hundreds of operators for any number of reasons.
Then there is the case of Garfield Trucking LLC.
FMCSA yesterday ordered the trucker, based in Jefferson, Ohio, to immediately cease all interstate and intrastate operations, calling the carrier an "imminent hazard" to public safety. Garfield, which operated three trucks with four drivers, is now out of business, according to Duane DeBruyne, an agency spokesman. It had operated since 2009, according to information found on a web site not affiliated with the company.
What makes this an extraordinary case centers on the events of October 4, when a vehicle operated by Garfield was stopped for an unannounced roadside inspection in Missouri. An inspector found 43 safety violations, including 13 out-of-service infractions, according to the agency. The inspection found multiple instances of improperly adjusted or inoperable brakes, defective brake components, cracked frame rails, load securement violations, and falsified hours-of-service log books.
Investigators also discovered Garfield was operating in violation of two separate out-of-service orders, one of which dated back to October 2014.
In a world where a carrier can be shut down for one out-of-service violation, identifying 13 of them during an inspection of a single vehicle is astounding. DeBruyne said in an e-mail that the volume of infractions from just one inspection is almost unprecedented. "It's certainly the most I have heard of in the past 10 years," he said.
On October 13, FMCSA investigators visited Garfield's office to conduct an unscheduled compliance review. The investigators noticed an "out-of-business" announcement on the premises. The investigators mailed copies of a "demand for access" letter, and an administrative subpoena of company documents. As of late yesterday, Garfield had yet to provide FMCSA investigators with access to the subpoenaed documents, the agency said.
Due to the denial of access to inspectors, Garfield has demonstrated an unwillingness to prove that it has a safety program, FMCSA said. The carrier's refusal to allow FMCSA access, its continued operation despite two out-of-service orders, its continued use of unsafe vehicles, and its failure to comply with hours-of-service regulations designed to prevent fatigued driving "substantially increase the likelihood of serious harm to drivers, passengers, and the motoring public," FMCSA said
The Garfield case illustrates the challenge faced by FMCSA, an agency with limited resources, to oversee a nation of truckers that are not all good actors. FMCSA oversees about 530,000 registered truck drivers with only 330 inspectors, Jack Van Steenburg, the agency's chief safety officer and assistant administrator, said at an industry conference earlier this year. The agency concentrated its enforcement efforts on about 8,000 high-risk carriers responsible for about 90 percent of all reportable accidents involving a truck, Van Steenburg said at the time.