FMCSA orders shutdown of carrier allegedly formed to evade previous order

Nov. 30, 2011
A Maryland trucking company that was formed to avoid an order by FMCSA to cease operations for a number of safety violations and seven crashes in the past year was quickly shut down last week, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun

A Maryland trucking company that was formed to avoid an order by FMCSA to cease operations for a number of safety violations and seven crashes in the past year was quickly shut down last week, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun.

Clock Transport LLC was opened just weeks before federal authorities shut down Gunthers Transport LLC of Hanover, MD, stating it was an “imminent hazard” to the public due to its poor safety record. Maryland State Police called Clock a “reincarnated carrier” set up to circumvent the shutdown order for Gunthers.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said in a statement Friday that the regulatory agency had issued “an imminent hazard out-of-service order against Clock Transport LLC based on the company’s affiliation with Gunthers Transport.”

Both companies listed the same address and the head of Clock was listed in state and federal documents as the son of the head of Gunthers Transport. Authorities vowed that troopers would repeatedly pull over any trucks linked to the Gunthers and Clock company address for safety inspections.

Gunthers Transport and the former Gunther’s Leasing Transport Inc. are both owned by Mark David Gunther Sr. Records filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and with Maryland’s tax office show that Mark David Gunther Jr. established Clock Transport before the first shutdown order took effect Nov. 8. Clock obtained a U.S. Dept. of Transportation identification number in September, even as investigators from that same federal agency were looking into Gunthers Transport.

Gunther’s Leasing declared bankruptcy the same month it lost a civil lawsuit stemming from a 1994 crash on the Capital Beltway that left one person dead; a construction worker run over in the accident and left permanently disabled is still owed millions of dollars awarded by a jury.

The shut down order targeting Clock was issued after one of its trucks failed an inspection during a routine check in Ohio on Oct. 20. It is the only infraction cited by federal authorities against Clock Transport, which started running trucks a few weeks ago.

In the shutdown order targeting Gunthers Transport, federal authorities included a provision aimed at preventing the company from starting up again and selling or leasing its equipment without their permission. The order said Gunthers “cannot avoid this operation’s out-of-service order by continuing operations under the name of another person or company.”

Gunthers Transport LLC has a long history of safety violations. 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.

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 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.

Capt. Norman Dofflemyer, the commander of the Maryland State Police commercial vehicle division, said that he served the out-of-service order on Clock Transport’s owner. He said the owner told him they had pulled all their trucks off the road. Dofflemyer vowed that troopers would repeatedly pull over any trucks linked to the address shared by Gunthers and Clock for safety inspections.

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