The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 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 after state and federal investigators found the companies to pose an imminent hazard to public safety. Tabner was served the federal order on January 23, 2021.
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, including:
- Failure to have a systematic vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance program to prevent unsafe commercial vehicles from operating on public roadways. In November 2020, a truck and trailer operated by one of Tabner’s companies were ordered out-of-service by New York State Police 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 the New York State Police.
- Failure to ensure that only qualified drivers with proper commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) operate on public roadways. 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. Investigators found that on numerous occasions, a 16-year-old Tabner employee, who did not possess a CDL, CLP, or medical examiner’s certificate, nevertheless was allowed to operate a vehicle exceeding 26,001 lbs. – even after the individual received multiple citations by law enforcement officers as far away as Minnesota and New York.
- 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 hours-of-service limitations to prevent fatigued driving. Vallise Automotive Group was found to have no programs in place to review its drivers’ records-of-duty-status for falsification, completeness, accuracy, or driver violations of hours of service regulations.
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/Vallise Automotive Group/Central Logistics, Inc, may be assessed civil penalties of up to $27,813 for each violation of the out-of-service order. The carriers may also 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 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. FMCSA is also considering civil penalties for the safety violations discovered during the investigation.
A copy of the Imminent Hazard Out-of-Service Order is at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/imminent-hazard-operations-out-service-order-matthew-tabner