A Montana-based small carrier has been declared an imminent hazard and ordered to stop operating by federal safety officials after officials discovered widespread violations of safety regulations, from drivers without commercial licenses to having no systematic vehicle maintenance program to operating without federal motor carrier operating authority.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered any motor carriers operated by Matthew Tabner, including two Belgrade, Montana-based companies – Vallise Automotive Group (aka Nixx LLC) and Central Logistics Inc. – to immediately cease all interstate and intrastate transportation operations.
According to the DOT’s Safety Measurement System, Nixx LLC, doing business as Vallise Automotive Group, has three trucks and four drivers, and Central Logistics Inc. has just one vehicle and one driver.
An investigation by FMCSA and the Montana Department of Transportation found numerous serious violations for Vallise Automotive Group, 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.
- Failure to ensure that only qualified drivers with proper commercial driver’s licenses operate on public roadways. Investigators found that on numerous occasions, a 16-year-old Tabner employee, who did not possess a CDL, commercial learner’s permit, or medical examiner’s certificate, was allowed to operate a vehicle exceeding 26,001 lbs. – even after receiving multiple citations by law enforcement officers as far away as Minnesota and New York. Matthew Tabner, owner of Nixx LLC d/b/a Vallise Automotive Group and Central Logistics Inc., was also cited during a roadside inspection last year for operating without a CDL.
- Failure to implement an alcohol and controlled substances testing program required by federal law for drivers who must hold a CDL.
- Failure to ensure compliance with hours-of-service regulations. 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 HOS regulations. During the past 12 months, three out of five of the companies’ roadside inspections resulted in the driver being placed out-of-service for having no driver hours of service logs.
- The company repeatedly tried to regulation and oversight by the FMCSA, with drivers giving false company names to inspection officers in late 2020 after Tabner was told he needed to have a DOT number to operate.
Tabner/Vallise Automotive Group/Central Logistics 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 U.S. DOT 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.