Federal safety regulators yesterday afternoon green-lighted Land Air Express of New England Ltd. to resume operations, more than a week after the Williston, Vt.-based regional truckload and less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier was shut down for purportedly failing to respond in time to a safety audit that rated its operations as unsatisfactory.
In a statement, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), said that it lifted its out-of-service order after upgrading Land Air's safety rating to "conditional." The agency said it acted after Land Air and the government negotiated a safety-management plan and the company demonstrated that it had corrected unspecified "deficiencies" in its safety-management system. FMCSA did not provide details in its statement.
As part of the negotiated agreement, FMCSA said it would closely monitor the carrier's safety performance for the next two years.
Land Air, which operates in eight states, has 330 trucks and employs 334 drivers. It is part of the "Reliance Network," a group of seven regional LTL carriers knitted together to provide service across the U.S. and into Mexico. It is one of the largest trucking companies to have been put out of service by FMCSA.
FMCSA said it shut down the carrier on Dec. 29 after it failed to respond in 60 days to a late-October notice that it would receive a "proposed unsatisfactory" safety rating following an agency compliance review. Even after issuing the out-of-service order, FMCSA said Land Air had the opportunity to submit an acceptable corrective action plan, appeal, or contest the proposed safety rating.
The FMCSA's action was unusual in that out-of-service orders are usually issued to smaller truckers, and they are typically outlined in an agency press release. In this case, however, there was scant publicly disseminated information.
According to the FMCSA database, the carrier has undergone 327 inspections during the past two years. In 167 of those, inspectors found violations that were used in the agency's "Safety Measurement System" grading methodology. By law, FMCSA is required not to disclose details on the seven categories that comprise a carrier's safety score.
The carrier's out-of-service rate for vehicle inspections is in line with the national average, and for drivers is significantly less than the national average. However, its out-of-service orders related to hazardous materials inspections are more than three times higher than the national average, according to the agency's database. Land Air had 47 reportable crashes in the previous 24 months, none of them involving fatalities, FMCSA said.