Trucking Company Owner Who Let 16-Year-Old Drive OTR Deemed an Imminent Hazard

Washington, DC – A Montana trucking company owner has been ordered to immediately cease intrastate and interstate service following a slew of violations that included allowing a 16-year-old, non-commercial drivers license (CDL) holder to drive over-the-road (OTR).

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Matthew Tabner, of Belgrade, MT, was served the federal order on January 23, 2021.




 

FMCSA ordered any motor carriers operated by Tabner, including three-truck carrier Vallise Automotive Group and one-truck carrier Central Logistics, Inc., both based in Belgrade, to immediately cease operations.

The order comes after state and federal investigators found the companies pose an imminent hazard to public safety.

Following an investigation by the Montana Department of Transportation and FMCSA enforcement personnel, Vallise Automotive Group was found to have widespread violations of numerous federal safety regulations.




 

Among the violations are failure to have a systematic vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance program to prevent unsafe commercial vehicles (CMVs) 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; and failure to properly monitor the dispatch of its drivers to ensure compliance with hours-of-service (HOS) limitations to prevent fatigued driving.

According to FMCSA, the investigation revealed on numerous occasions, a 16-year-old employee of Tabner — who did not possess a CDL, CLP, or medical examiner’s certificate — was operating a vehicle exceeding 26,001 pounds.

 

The juvenile, whose identity was not released, received “multiple citations” by law enforcement officers as far away as Minnesota and New York, FMCSA stated.

Additionally, in November 2020, one of Tabner’s semi-trucks was ordered out-of-service (OOS) by New York State Police (NYSP) after it was determined the tractor had deficient brakes and the trailer had inoperative brakes.

Despite the OOS order, however, Tabner’s driver moved the truck and trailer.

Two additional citations were issued buy NYSP as a result.

Civil penalties of up to $27,813 may be assessed for each OOS violation, FMCSA said.

 

It was not made clear if the driver in the above instance was the 16-year-old.

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.”


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Tabner and his companies may also be assessed civil penalties of no less than $11,125 for providing transportation requiring federal operating authority registration and up to $15,691 for operating a CMV in interstate commerce without necessary USDOT registration.




 

If violations are determined to be willful, criminal penalties may be imposed, including a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for a term not to exceed one year.

In addition, FMCSA is considering civil penalties for the safety violations discovered during the investigation.

 


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