AT NewsBlitz: Scoundrels aplenty, port woes, clean air regs

American Trucker’s round-up of this and that this week features bite-size news of several bad guys in the trucking industry getting what was coming to them, a ruling against a carrier who improperly classified drivers as contractors instead of employees, trucks caught in the middle of the West Coast port labor turmoil, and a push for Oregon to adopt CARB-like emissions regs for trucks.

The AT news desk received a pallet’s worth of updates from Dept. of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) this week. Among the more noteworthy skullduggery related to the trucking industry:

• The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has debarred a Pittsburgh-area drug testing company for falsifying drug and alcohol screens. The three-year exclusion comes on top of a sentence for the operator of eight months of house arrest and an order to pay $109,000 in restitution.

  • The owner of a reincarnated Tennessee trucking company was sentenced to three months incarceration, 12 months supervised release, a $5,000 fine and was ordered not to engage in any commercial trucking after pleading guilty to violating an FMCSA imminent hazard out-of-service order.
  • Similarly, a Georgia man has also pleaded guilty in to conspiracy to violate an imminent hazard out-of-service order. The man’s company had been ordered to cease operations in 2008 following a fatal crash that killed seven people in Alabama, but resumed trucking under a different name, according to the FMCSA investigation.
  • Add two New York DMV security guards to the roster of those who’ve pleaded guilty to helping test takers cheat on the CDL exam. The fraud schemes included the use of pencils containing miniaturized encoded test answers, the use of a Bluetooth headset as a communication device to relay CDL test answers, and the use of an external test-taker positioned nearby to take the exams.
  • In North Carolina, a man has pleaded guilty for false statements on a commercial driver employment application. Turn out, two years ago he was charged with reckless homicide and possessing an open alcohol beverage container following a tractor trailer crash that resulted in one fatality and three injuries. As a result of the accident, he was fired. He later lied on his application for another driving job when he listed no previous accidents.

A judge has ruled that drivers working for Pacer Cartage at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are employees not contractors, and seven of them are due more $2 million, the Daily Breeze reports. The drivers should have the same benefits and protections as employees because the company has more control over their activities than is allowed in an independent contractor relationship, the judge decided. “Now, every truck company is put on notice that if they have a similar scheme in place, (they) are in willing violation of California law,” said Alvin Gomez, the drivers’ attorney. Pacer Cartage will appeal the ruling.

Also coming out of West Coast ports, truckers are caught in the middle of an ongoing labor dispute between dock worker and the shipping companies. The two sides have been haggling over a contract for nearly eight months with no real progress, note. Containers to be picked are few and far between and, to make matters worse, some drivers are being charged late fees for containers and chassis even when it’s the terminal that won’t let them in, according to KTVU 2 News.

Activists in Oregon don’t want all of California’s non-CARB compliant diesel trucks winding up in the Beaver State, so Neighbors for Clean Air want the legislature to adopt air quality standards similar to those of the southern neighbor. As reported in the Portland Tribune, Oregon truckers contend that diesel regulations should be done on a national basis, not state by state.

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