Ninth Circuit Rejects Trucking Company’s Request to Overrule FMCSA Shutdown Order – Multistar Industries v. USDOT
As a Missouri semi truck accident attorney, I know that ordinary drivers rely on federal regulators to keep unsafe trucking companies off the road. Trucking companies can get an order to shut down after a serious breach of trucking regulations, or a series of smaller breaches. So I was pleased to see a federal appeals court reject one motor carrier’s challenge to a shutdown order in Multistar Industries Inc. v. US DOT and FMCSA. Multistar transports hazardous materials for hire. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued it an order to shut down after finding its compliance with trucking regulations unsatisfactory. It denied Multistar’s administrative appeal. The Ninth Circuit dismissed a petition for review on the merits, saying no final ruling had been reached by the agency, and denied a petition filed on due process grounds.
To determine that Multistar should be shut down, the FMCSA conducted an on-site review of its compliance with safety regulations. It proposed that the carrier be rated unsatisfactory based on findings that it used a driver who had a suspended, revoked or canceled driver’s license, and another who was physically unqualified; and various violations related to transporting hazardous materials without a plan, training or proper conditions. The ruling required it to shut down by Oct. 2, 2012. Multistar challenged the unsatisfactory rating, but this was denied, with the FMCSA saying most of the company’s challenges would not change the rating. It also denied a safety ratings upgrade, saying Multistar hadn’t taken adequate steps to control violations. Multistar then asked the Ninth Circuit for judicial reviews of the orders and an emergency stay, all of which were granted.
Nonetheless, the Ninth Circuit upheld the FMCSA’s shutdown order. Multistar’s substantive challenge charged that the FMCSA misapplied safety regulations when it came up with the unsatisfactory rating. Its procedural challenge said the FMCSA failed to provide a substantive response to some of its challenges, thus denying it due process. But the Ninth Circuit found that unsatisfactory rating did not rely on the challenges at issue. Indeed, it said, removing these two altogether would not have changed the outcome because there were five more acute or critical regulatory violations. Because of this, the court said, those particular challenges are not yet ripe for review; the company must challenge them administratively. After dismissing the substantive issues Multistar raised, the court moved on to reject its due process claim, which said the FMCSA was required to give the same two challenges a substantive response. But because those challenges didn’t affect the outcome, the court said, the FMCSA didn’t need to reach their merits.
As a St. Louis tractor-trailer accident lawyer, I’m pleased that a federal appeals court upheld this decision—and I hope it convinces Multistar that the FMCSA means business when it orders a shutdown for serious safety violations. The violations that led to the shutdown order are not trivial. The driver violations include one regarding someone whose license was taken away and another whose license apparently should be, since he or she was physically disqualified. Commercial driver’s licenses are not taken away at the drop of a hat; most likely, the drivers in question have serious safety problems. And while the court didn’t go into detail about the other violations, transporting hazardous materials should be done more carefully than five regulatory violations suggests. As a southern Illinois 18-wheeler accident attorney, I’m pleased that our nation’s trucking regulator is willing to shut down companies with these problems.
Carey, Danis & Lowe represents clients who were seriously hurt or lost a loved one in crashes involving large commercial trucks. If you believe a bad decision by a trucker or trucking company caused your injuries, call us today for a free, confidential consultation at 1-877-678-3400 or send us a message online.
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