James H. Wood was arrested last week for taking lots of money over the past two years from trucking companies who wanted him to look the other way as Mr. Wood did his job over in New York, as a truck safety supervisor for the the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Actually, Mr. Wood wasn’t just a worker bee: he was a supervisor for FMCSA in their Buffalo office (FMCSA being an agency within the Department of Transportation).
Now, James Wood is within another part of the federal system: he was arrested on federal felonies involving conspiracy and taking bribes by the New York branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after being investigated by both the FBI and the Inspector General for the Transportation Department. A formal complaint has been filed in the local federal court, delineating the charges against him.
Seems Mr. Wood took over $60,000 in the past two years from commercial trucking corporations in return for (1) letting the truckers know in advance about planned inspections of their big rigs, along with (2) letting his new pals in on “friendly audits,” that kept bad, dangerous trucks out on the roads as well as (3) instituting (presumably against his pals’ competitors) “complaint audits” against some companies. This was apparently all very easy for a FMCSA supervisor to do.
Now, here’s the question: how big is this investigation? Is Wood a bad apple or the first in a trend?
It is interesting that the FBI together with the investigative arm of the Department of Transportation are the two organizations involved here. That’s a lot of big manpower to ferret out one, single evildoer. This cooperative effort between the two agencies suggests that there’s more to this story than this one man. Would it surprise anyone that James Wood isn’t the only inspector who’s on the trucking industry payroll?
Things are heating up for trucking companies with the new regulations coming into play.
New federal regulations regarding the number of hours that a truck driver can be on the road (hours of service) are going into effect this year. Truckers must take 34 hours off between runs. Truck drivers will now have to complete their loading (or unloading) as well as getting from Point A to Point B within 13 hours, with a mandatory one-hour break. (Go here to read the FMCSA itemized list of HOS changes.)
This is all being done for safety reasons, of course. To make commercial trucking on the road safer for all of us — truckers and those who share the roads with them. However, it will cut into the profits of the trucking companies and they aren’t accepting these changes without a fight. Last week, for example, the president of the American Truckers Association wrote President Obama to challenge the effectiveness of the proposed regulations and litigation is predicted.
Maybe they’re doing other things, too — things that the FBI is going to share with all of us in the near future.