Swatting down SWAT-like raids against carriers

Federal court could decide legality of carrier inspectionsIn a case that could have far-reaching implications for carrier inspections, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., is expected to rule on a request for an injunction that would prevent the DOT's Office of Inspector General (OIG) from conducting what the complainants describe as SWAT-like "raids" against the carriers.Attorney Anthony McMahon

Federal court could decide legality of carrier inspections

In a case that could have far-reaching implications for carrier inspections, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., is expected to rule on a request for an injunction that would prevent the DOT's Office of Inspector General (OIG) from conducting what the complainants describe as SWAT-like "raids" against the carriers.

Attorney Anthony McMahon represents Truckers United for Safety, which claims that OIG exceeds its authority by conducting regulatory compliance investigations of trucking companies.

In June, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan heard McMahon describe how federal agents, with guns drawn, entered the offices of K&C Trucking in Rustburg, Va., and threw employees against a wall. Roger Williams, OIG's general counsel, called these allegations "baloney."

Hogan is expected to rule soon on the injunction request, which comes on the heels of a September 22 ruling in Phoenix in which a U.S. District Judge ruled that OIG agents exceeded their authority when they conducted a search last year of Northland Trucking in Phoenix for allegedly violating federal motor carrier safety regulations.

The judge's ruling negates the search warrant and orders agents to return all seized property. Judge Paul Rosenblatt said OIG should not have issued the search warrant.

In both cases OIG claimed that it has the authority to conduct searches and seizures under the Inspector General Act of 1978, which gives inspectors general such powers in the course of running their agencies. Opponents argue that a March 1989 Justice Dept. opinion limits their powers to internal investigations of fraud and mismanagement by government agencies and government contractors.

The IRS Chief Counsel's office has confirmed its previous advice that satellite tracking and communications equipment installed on trucks is not subject to the 12% excise tax on new vehicles, parts and accessories. As with previous documents on this subject, the national office found that the equipment qualifies for the same exemption that applied to two-way radios under a 1964 ruling.

Don't bet on higher fleet fueling costs this month. Many of the dynamics that traditionally push prices lower this time of year are clearly in play. For example, crude oil markets have gone from frothy to frosty in less than three weeks. While analysts haven't given up on the idea that crude futures could again surpass $25 bbl in '99, it won't happen in November. The days of oil prices trading higher on expectations are over for now. It'll take changes in the fundamentals of supply and demand to uplift the complex. And that doesn't usually happen till the peak winter demand period - Thanksgiving to Valentine's Day.

October wholesale costs flattened out to the low 70s in California, with East and Gulf Coast markets within 1-3 cents of 60 cents/gal. But high refinery production should eliminate any notion of tight supply, easing prices in many states.

This information was provided by OPIS Transportation. For fuel prices & analysis call 1-800-929-4824, ext. 2644 or visit www.opisnet.com/transportation/

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