A fatal accident involving a driver falling asleep at the wheel led the Federal Motor Carrier Administration to investigate Beatrice, Ala.-based J&L Trucking and order its vehicles off the road.

On March 28, a J&L Trucking driver crossed the centerline on Alabama’s State Highway 13, crashing his truck head-on with a passenger vehicle, killing both of its occupants.

The trucker admitted that he had fallen asleep while driving and investigators found that the driver did not have his records-of-duty status for the previous seven days and no valid medical certificate. They also found multiple violations on the J&L Trucking vehicle, including unsafe tires, and oil and grease leaks.

This led to a full post-crash investigation of the two-truck company, which found it to be in violation of multiple federal safety statutes and regulations.

This included a complete lack of maintenance files or records showing that J&L’s trucks were regularly inspected, maintained, repaired, or meeting minimum safety standards. The company owner claimed that he had conducted periodic inspections and service, despite not being qualified to perform either function.

The company’s trucks were subjected to 12 unannounced roadside safety inspections in the previous two years and failed nine of them. The trucks were placed out of service for 80 violations, including inoperative lights, worn tires, leaks, a damaged windshield, and defective or missing brake warning components.

As demonstrated in the accident, the company didn’t monitor its drivers’ hours-of-service requirements and was unable to produce any records-of-duty status for two of three drivers. The company dispatched its drivers through cell phone messaging and did not keep a record of driver trips.  

According to the FMCSA report, one driver admitted that he was unfamiliar with filling out a log book and had never done so. One driver told investigators that he insisted on turning in his records-of-duty status but J&L officials never reviewed them for compliance with federal safety regulations.

Beyond that, J&L also failed to make sure its drivers were qualified, including not ensuring that drivers were licensed and physically qualified to operate a commercial vehicle. J&L Trucking was unable to produce any driver qualification file with requisite employment application, medical certificate, driver road test certificate, state motor vehicle record, prior employer inquiry or record of violations. The one employment applications the company’s officials did provide was found to be fraudulent.

As a result of these violations, FMCSA has declared J&L Trucking and its drivers imminent hazards and has ordered that the trucking company not participate in interstate trucking until it can prove that it has solved these issues.

The company may be penalized up to $25,705 for each violation of the out-of-service order with additional penalties possible. It may also face criminal penalties if the violations are determined to be willful. Those could include a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to a year.