Gunthers Transport LLC, a Hanover, Md-based trucking company with a long history of safety violations — including a fatal crash in August — has been ordered to cease operations immediately after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found the carrier to be an “imminent hazard” to the public.
The FMSCA action stems from a two-year assessment of the fleet’s safety performance that found that Gunthers was “seriously deficient” in four of seven safety categories: safe driving, prevention of driver fatigue, driver fitness and vehicle maintenance and resulted in the agency issuing an imminent-hazard order against the fleet.
A spokeswoman for FMCSA told the Baltimore Sun that an imminent-hazard order is “one of the strongest measures” the agency can take unilaterally to shut down an unsafe company. During the last federal budget year, the agency issued only 10 such orders nationwide, she said.
“Your motor carrier operation substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death if not discontinued immediately,” the agency’s notice to the company said.
During a recent on-site investigation FMCSA investigators found evidence that Gunthers drivers were regularly in violation of hours-of-service regulations. And the Maryland State Police found a Gunthers truck had worn tires, defective brakes and a turn signal that wasn’t working in the August accident.
Safety problems have been found in “substantially all” of Gunthers Transport’s vehicles on which inspections were performed in the past six months, according to FMCSA. The fleet was subject to two compliance reviews in 2008 and two this year. Among the findings were that Gunthers has been operating vehicles that had been listed as out of service and the fleet was falsifying records of driver drug and alcohol violations. The company received approximately 60 hours of service citations over the last two years, according to FMCSA.
In the past last two years 18 Gunther vehicles were inspected 190 times and were deemed unfit for service 58% of the time — about three times the national average — according to FMCSA. Gunthers’ drivers were inspected 242 times in the same period and 16% of them were found unfit to drive. The national average for drivers being taken out of service is 5.5%.
FMCSA also said it found evidence that Gunthers allowed drivers to begin trips without pre-trip inspections and to operate vehicles that were in dangerous mechanical condition. It also found evidence Gunthers either allowed or required drivers to falsify log books.
Gunthers also has had seven serious crashes in the past 12 months involving four injuries and a fatality, according to FMCSA. After a crash April 28, an inspection found that the driver did not have a required medical certificate and was driving a tractor-trailer that had not been inspected.
The federal order prohibits Gunthers from resuming operations until the fleet can meet a series of stringent conditions, among them, the FMCSA said, is that the company must prepare a plan to retrain its drivers and “take immediate, aggressive and progressive steps to control drivers’ hours of service.”