The U.S. DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last week shut down a Tennessee-based trucking company, Three Angels Farms, after an extensive review found multiple federal violations in hours-of-service compliance, driver qualification requirements, drug and alcohol testing and vehicle maintenance.

Federal officials ordered Three Angels Farms and its owners, Edwin Ayache and Dorian Ayache, to immediately cease all transportation services based on serious safety violations that posed an imminent hazard to public safety.

Among the findings, investigators discovered that the company allowed drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles without commercial driver's licenses and did not conduct proper controlled substances testing of its drivers.

Crashes Bring Scrutiny

During the past six months, Three Angels Farms has had two accidents involving poorly maintained vehicles and fatigued or disqualified drivers, which resulted in the deaths of four horses.

On January 17, a Three Angels Farms driver fell asleep behind the wheel, veered off the right side of the road and lost control, causing the trailer to overturn on interstate I-24. The trailer was carrying 38 horses; three died. After the accident, in addition to citing the driver for operating while fatigued, officers found tires that were mostly bald, three trailer brakes out of adjustment beyond 2 inches, spring hangars on the rear trailer axle worn through, and crossmembers rusted throughout the trailer undercarriage.

Given the condition of that trailer, it's no surprise that last month, a Three Angels Farms rig had a trailer snap in half while traveling on I-40 West. Officials found out-of-adjustment brakes, frame rails rusted all the way through, and one tire with more than 12 inches of tread missing altogether. The driver did not have a valid CDL, and the second driver in the vehicle had a suspended CDL.

"Flagrant Disregard"

Following the second accident, the Tennessee FMCSA Division Office conducted a compliance review of Three Angels Farms, and uncovered widespread regulatory violations that "demonstrate a continuing and flagrant disregard for compliance with the FMCSRs."

Three Angels Farms employs three drivers, none of whom are presently qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Three Angels Farms has continued to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce without an adequate vehicle maintenance program, adherence to pre-employment drug and testing regulations, and hours of service, log and records of duty status requirements, and with minuscule oversight of its drivers and their qualifications.

The FMCSA's Safety Measurement System shows that Three Angels Farms exceeds by a significant margin the intervention thresholds in two of the six BASICs: Fatigued Driving (97.4%) and Vehicle Maintenance (96.3%).

"Safety is always our top priority," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "If a truck company ignores federal safety rules and places the traveling public at risk, we will remove them from the road."

A copy of the imminent hazard out-of-service order can be viewed here.