April 12–The Federal Motor Safety Carrier Safety Administration has ordered a Cumberland County, Tenn.-based trucking company to cease transporting hazardous materials stemming from the March discovery of unsecured explosives and related materials in the back of a company pickup truck.
The federal order was served Monday on Rock City Stone Company LLC, doing business as RC Stone & Farms on Bean Pot Campground Road in Crossville, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the federal agency along with a 16-page Imminent Hazard Operations Out-Of-Service Order. The company was ordered to “cease all transportation in commerce of explosives and/or a placardable quantity of hazardous materials after a federal investigation found the company to pose an imminent hazard to public safety,” federal officials said.
The owner of RC Stone and Farms, who on his attorney’s advice would not give his name because of the ongoing investigation, said Wednesday that efforts to correct the violations began the day the truck was stopped by Dunlap police and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
“We have reason to believe we were targeted by a competitor and we want proof that that wasn’t the case,” the owner said, but he didn’t name names.
However, he admitted the violations were legitimate and that he and his employees were “not up to date on DOT [requirements] but now we are.”
“Within 14 hours of being issued the order [on Monday], we had everything in compliance except for the supervisor being trained and that was done this morning,” he said.
The owner said a 198-page request for federal officials to rescind the order was sent Wednesday by overnight mail. The order sets down requirements for a rescission in a 14-point remedial action agenda.
Meanwhile, the company is allowed to continue blasting work, the owner said, but cannot transport any hazardous materials. He said suppliers will deliver materials to the company’s project sites for the time being.
“We’re limited in our business but we’re not out of business,” he said. “I do feel we’ve met the training requirements. The last 10 days, my guys have been in training. We’ve probably spent $10,000 to $12,000 getting everything up to date as far as training goes.”
The discovery of the explosives happened shortly after 10 a.m. on March 23, after officers stopped a 2003 Ford F-250 truck near the National Guard Armory on state Highway 28, according to a statement on the original incident issued by the Dunlap Police Department.
Dunlap authorities said the truck was transporting a large amount of explosives to a work site in Marion County but was not displaying the required placards nor did the truck’s occupants have the required permits and licenses to transport the explosives. Troopers took the lead in the continuing investigation.
The company had a proper and legal transport vehicle sent to the scene, along with a driver that possessed the required license to transport the explosives, Dunlap police said.
Federal investigators said in a statement on the order that safety violations were “so widespread as to demonstrate a continuing and flagrant disregard for compliance … and a management philosophy indifferent to motor carrier safety.”
Documents state that since Jan. 1, the company’s records show it “has transported hazardous materials to approximately 44 blasting sites in Tennessee — without proper placarding or preparation of shipping papers.”
“The company operated without an assessment of transportation security risks and without a transportation security plan, including preparation of [a hazmat] route plan in accordance with federal safety regulations,” federal officials state in the documents issued on Tuesday.
The company may be assessed civil penalties of up to $25,705 for each violation of the out-of-service order. The carrier may also be assessed civil penalties of up to $14,502 for operating a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce without necessary USDOT registration, officials said. 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.
The federal agency is also considering civil penalties for the safety violations discovered during the investigation and may refer this matter for criminal prosecution, officials said.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.
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