FMCSA issues imminent hazard orders to tow company, driver

March 17, 2021

Land Line Staff


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has declared a Birmingham, Ala.-based towing company and one of its drivers as imminent hazards following numerous violations in recent months.

Woods Dependable Towing received a federal order to cease operations on March 8, while a separate imminent hazard order was issued to the company’s driver Samuel Lee Wren on March 3.

The out-of-service orders followed a compliance investigation of Woods Dependable Towing conducted by FMCSA. The investigation yielded numerous federal safety violations.

Those violations included:

  • Failing to have a systematic inspection, repair and maintenance program for its vehicles.
  • Failing to systematically monitor its drivers as required to ensure compliance with federal hours-of-service regulations to prevent fatigued driving.
  • Failing to ensure its CDL drivers are qualified.

In the past 24 months ending January 2021, FMCSA said Woods Dependable Towing’s vehicles were subject to 31 unannounced roadside inspections. On 16 occasions, or at a rate of greater than 50%, Woods Dependable Towing trucks were immediately ordered out-of-service for serious safety violations.

The safety violations included inoperable lights; deficient braking systems, and; flat tires and/or tires dangerously worn with exposed fabric, ply or structural belt material. In reviewing the carrier’s maintenance records, FMCSA investigators found no evidence that vehicles were periodically inspected as required. In two instances, annual periodic inspection forms were found to be falsified.

FMCSA also said investigators found evidence that drivers had submitted falsified records-of-duty-status – and in the instance of driver Samuel Lee Wren – evidence that he routinely disabled his mandatory electronic logging device. While driving for Woods Dependable Towing, within a span of approximately three weeks in the fall of 2020, Wren had two separate, single-vehicle crashes with one occurring in Tennessee and the other in Ohio.

In both instances, Wren received driving citations from state law enforcement officers.

Investigators found that prior to and on the day of the Tennessee crash, Wren had exceeded the allowable on-duty driving hours and that he had falsified his records-of-duty-status.

As part of the compliance investigation, FMCSA investigators also found that even though driver Wren in May 2020 had been informed that he tested positive for a controlled substance, the carrier allowed him to continue to drive its trucks.

Woods Dependable Towing may be assessed civil penalties of up to $27,813 for each violation of the out-of-service order. The carrier may also be assessed civil penalties of not less than $11,125 for providing transportation requiring federal operating authority registration and up to $15,691 for operating a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce without necessary USDOT registration. If violations are determined to be willful, criminal penalties may be imposed, including a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for a term not to exceed one year.

Separately, Wren may be assessed civil penalties of up to $1,895 for each violation of his federal imminent hazard order. Knowing and/or willful violation of the order may also result in criminal penalties. LL