Update: Bus company manager gets 14 months in prison for lying on log books
In addition to Wisla Express being ordered to pay $75,000 in penalties, Dariusz Szteborowski was given jail time for lying to FMSCA
As an attorney who litigates often terrible crashes involving buses and trucks, it’s not unusual to find these companies lying on their log books, maintenance records, and driver investigations and audits. In fact, I previously wrote about a disturbing story regarding one dangerous bus company that was falsifying driver logs to cheat the FMCSA hours of service rules and increase profits. Perhaps this most recent turn of events may stop some of the outright fraud and dishonesty that’s so pervasive in the commercial trucking and bus industry today.
Connecticut-based Wisla Express is a commercial passenger carrier that operates vans, mini-buses and tour buses in the New England area. Following a Department of Transportation (DOT) investigation, agency inspectors discovered that the Wisla office manager was knowingly presenting falsified driving logs to the FMSCA. What was even more troubling was that this manager was the person who actually created and maintained the false logs.
The office manager, Dariusz Szteborowski, entered a guilty plea for his role in the logbook falsification, as did the company itself. FMCSA investigators demonstrated that Szteborowski “often assigned bus drivers to trips knowing that the drivers would be exceeding the regulated limits of on-duty driving time,” per an official release.
Ultimately, the bus company was fined $75,000 and placed on five years probation with the FMCSA. Part of the punishment was that Dariusz Szteborowski was not allowed anywhere near a management role within the company moving forward.
But what happened next is where the story gets interesting. In an unusual turn of events for these kinds of offenses, U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Hartford sentenced Mr. Szteborowski to 14 months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release.
This is very unusual. But again, as an attorney that sees the consequences of what happens when people lie in the cases I litigate, it is a very good thing. The initial response among some defense attorneys I know was that this sentence was unduly harsh. But consider not the lying in and of itself, but all of the deaths and terrible injuries that occur on our roads to our families when people like Mr. Szteborowski lie. That leads to bus and truck drivers causing the crashes that cause terrible carnage and tragedy to so many innocent lives.
It is the consequences of these lies that justify this sentence.
Mr. Szteborowski was running tired and overworked bus drivers so that he could increase the company’s bottom line. This was deliberate and done at the expense of the safety of everyone on the roads. I hope more judges follow the lead of U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson. It would certainly make our roads immediately safer if more judges did.
In addition to his prison time, Mr. Szteborowski was ordered to pay a fine of $20,000.
The FMSCA, and judges like U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson are sending a firm message that people who choose to put profits over safety will be held accountable. This tells management that they will be held accountable when they break the laws that are meant to keep us safe.