(CBS) — There have been a string of fatal truck accidents in the Chicago area caused by drivers who were charged with falsifying their driving logs and were apparently too tired to drive safely.
There are federal regulations that prohibit all that, but now truckers are telling CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman that they are often pressured and even coerced to violate those rules.
Kelvin Mathews, who now owns his own trucking company, says he got caught in the middle when he previously worked as the safety and operational director for Brave Lines Trucking Company in Mundelein. He says the owner there pressured truck drivers to work longer than the federal regulations allow.
“Often he would ask me to manipulate the log book, change it so that if we get audited it looks all right,” Mathews said.
Another former Brave Lines driver, who didn’t want his name used for this report, says he bowed to the pressure twice, once logging 18 hours in the worst case.
“They tell you if you don’t do it, it will cost the company hundreds of dollars,” the truck driver said,” and they’ll charge you for it.”
When he refused to again work longer than federal safety regulations allow the driver said he was fired by the owner of Brave Lines.
Awan Green says he objected when Brave Lines gave him a run that was impossible to complete within federal limits for hours on the road. That meant that four hours of his trip he was running illegally.
Green says he also objected to being pressured to drive a truck missing tandem pins that secure the tires to the trailer—another safety violation. He says he reported the defects to Brave Lines before driving the truck from New York to Chicago, and was told to “run with it.”
Kelvin Mathews says other drivers were also told to drive rigs that needed repairs.
“You’re talking about tires, you’re talking about brakes,” Mathews said.
When he voiced his concerns about all this to the owner of Brave Lines, “He told me just do what I say, and I wouldn’t,” Mathews said.
Brave Lines owner Marek Kiela denies he pressures drivers to violate federal rules and the statements made by his former employees are false.
“Our safety record at this moment is perfect,” Kiela said.
But upon closer inspection, the 2 Investigators learned that Brave Lines is on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s watch list because of its high number of violations involving drivers working longer than the hours allowed, vehicle maintenance problems and unsafe driving. For example, Brave Lines drivers racked up 10 tickets for speeding, 14 got tickets for tire problems and there were 58 hours of service violations in the past two years.
When Zekman tried to ask Kiela about the FMCSA records he said, “I’m not going to go over it with you.”
Now the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration wants to prohibit carriers, shippers and manufacturers from coercing drivers to violate federal regulations.
“If there are decisions being made to force the drivers to violate the rules those that are forcing those decisions need to be held accountable for those decisions,” said Stephen Keppler of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.
The FMCSA is urging anyone with information concerning driver harassment or coercion to report it.
You can contact the FMCSA at 1-888-368-7238 or online at nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.