FMCSA orders two Montana carriers to cease all operations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has ordered two Montana carriers to cease all operations after the agency found numerous safety violations, including letting a teen drive a vehicle.

FMCSA has ordered any motor carriers operated by Matthew Tabner, including two Belgrade, Montana-based companies — Vallise Automotive Group and Central Logistics Inc. — to immediately cease all interstate and intrastate transportation operations. The order was issued after state and federal investigators found the companies to pose an imminent hazard to public safety.

Tabner was served the federal order on Jan. 23, 2021, following an investigation by the Montana Department of Transportation and FMCSA enforcement personnel.

Montana carriers

Vallise Automotive Group was found to have widespread violations of numerous federal safety regulations, including:

  • Failure to have a systematic vehicle inspection, repair and maintenance program to prevent unsafe commercial motor vehicles from operating on public roadways.
  • Failure to ensure that only qualified drivers with proper CDLs operate on public roadways.
  • Failure to implement an alcohol and controlled substances testing program required by federal law for drivers who must hold a CDL.
  • Failure to properly monitor the dispatch of its drivers to ensure compliance with the hours-of-service regulations.

In November 2020, a truck and trailer operated by one of Tabner’s companies were ordered out of service by New York State Police (NYSP) after a roadside inspection revealed deficient brakes on the truck and inoperative brakes on the trailer. Despite the out-of-service order, the unsafe truck and trailer were moved, resulting in two additional citations issued by NYSP.

Investigators found that on numerous occasions, a 16-year-old Tabner employee — who did not possess a CDL, CLP or medical examiner’s certificate — was allowed to operate a vehicle exceeding 26,001 pounds. This occurred even after the individual had received multiple citations by law enforcement officers as far away as Minnesota and New York. Drivers of commercial vehicles requiring a CDL in interstate commerce must be at least 21 years old. Federal safety regulations also require all holders of a CDL, or a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), to possess a medical examiner’s certificate.

Civil penalties

The FMCSA order states that the “unacceptable safety compliance” by Tabner’s motor carrier companies “significantly increase the likelihood of serious injury or death if not discontinued immediately.”

Tabner and his companies may be assessed civil penalties as much as $27,813 for each violation of the out-of-service order. The carriers also may be assessed civil penalties of not less than $11,125 for providing transportation requiring federal operating authority registration and up to $15,691 for operating a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce without necessary U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) registration.

If violations are determined to be willful, criminal penalties may be imposed. That includes a fine of as much as $25,000 and imprisonment for up to one year.

FMCSA said it is also considering civil penalties against Tabner/Vallise Automotive Group/Central Logistics Inc. for the safety violations discovered during the investigation.

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