FMCSA shuts down North Carolina trucking company over safety violations

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Tuesday, November 05, 2013

A North Carolina freight hauler has been ordered out of service after federal regulators described the operation as one of the worst in the nation for vehicle safety performance.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued the out-of-service order to Moonlight Express of Cherryville, N.C., and its owner, Rocky Lee Brown. The order prohibits Brown or the company from operating commercial motor vehicles until such time as the safety defects can be addressed and remediated.

Moonlight Express operates a fleet of six trucks transporting general freight. The FMCSA investigation in October found that all vehicles in the fleet had failed to meet minimum safety standards and that the company does not systematically inspect, repair or maintain its vehicles as required by federal safety regulations.

“With a BASIC score of 97.7 percent for Vehicle Maintenance, Moonlight Express is among the worst ranked motor carriers in the nation for poor vehicle safety performance,” the order stated. “Moonlight Express’s dispatch of vehicles that have not passed annual inspections, combined with evidence of a clearly ineffective or nonexistent vehicle maintenance program, substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death if the company’s operations are not discontinued immediately.”

Among the safety violations were references to two separate roadside inspections of company vehicles in the last few months in which both vehicles were ordered out of service for multiple violations, including inoperative or defective brakes.

The company was also cited for failing to comply with driver fitness, drug and alcohol testing, and record-keeping regulations. The report states that on multiple occasions, a driver with a suspended commercial driver’s license was allowed to operate company vehicles. Investigators also found the company did not ensure that its drivers complied with federal hours-of-service regulations designed to prevent fatigue, including limitations on daily driving and maximum on-duty hours.

Brown also operates another motor carrier, Rose Trucking of Crouse, N.C., which was declared out-of-service on Sept. 18, following an unsatisfactory rating during a compliance review. The agency report claims that Brown ran both Moonlight Express and Rose Trucking concurrently, using “substantially the same drivers and commercial vehicles.”

“Mr. Brown has an extensive compliance and enforcement history with FMCSA through Rose Trucking, which includes a new entrant Safety Audit, two compliance reviews, two enforcement actions, and an Order to Cease Operations,” the report stated. “In the OP-1 Form filed for Moonlight Express, Mr. Brown falsely claimed that he had no affiliation with any other FMCSA-regulated entity within the past (three) years.

“In fact, Mr. Brown is and was the owner of Rose Trucking. Mr. Brown also falsified the MCS-150 Form he filed for Moonlight Express when he listed its principal place of business as 1301 E. Church Street, Cherryville, North Carolina,” the report stated. “The building at that address is vacant, and Mr. Brown does not maintain any motor carrier records at that location. During the investigation, many of Moonlight Express’s vehicles were parked in the yard at Mr. Brown’s home.”

The investigation report also noted that the company does not maintain accurate records, and in some instances swapped license plates on trucks used by Moonlight Express and Rose Trucking.

Since the beginning of 2013, FMCSA has issued out-of-service orders to a total of 11 trucking companies and 26 bus companies. The agency has also declared 10 commercial driver’s license holders as imminent hazards, blocking them from operating in interstate commerce.

A copy of the imminent hazard out-of-service order can be viewed at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/about/news/2013/MoonlightExpress.pdf

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