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Connecticut bus company fined $75,000 for falsifying log books

Written by Steve Gursten Posted February 13th, 2014

Wisla Express is fined and given 5 years probation after the FMCSA discovered that management was lying on driving logs to circumvent regulation

Wisla Express fined by FMSCA

I write often about the bus accident cases that I litigate as an attorney, but these are always after someone innocent has been injured or killed. It’s nice to see that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is serious about cracking down on dangerous truck and bus companies who skirt the rules on safety – before a serious crash occurs. This was demonstrated most recently as a Connecticut-based bus company was ordered to pay $75,000 after it presented falsified documents to the administration.

Wisla Express is a commercial passenger carrier that operates vans, mini-buses and tour buses in the New England area. A Department of Transportation (DOT) inspection revealed some extremely troubling safety issues.

Following the investigation, agency inspectors found that the Wisla office manager was knowingly presented falsified driving logs to the FMSCA. What’s worse, this manager created and maintained the false log.  Furthermore, he was forcing the bus drivers and van operators to do the same.

This company was knowingly violating the hours of service regulations from the very top to the very bottom.

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 drivers to trips knowing that the drivers would be exceeding the regulated limits of on-duty driving time,” per an official release.

To hide the violations from FMCSA inspectors, the office manager told drivers and other Wisla employees to create false logbook records to show the driver being off-duty when they were really driving and putting passengers and other motorists at risk.

Szteborowski later submitted these very same falsified logs to FMCSA during a routine inspection.

You may recall that as experienced bus accident lawyers, we recently blogged about a new regulatory rule that targets dangerous management in charge of both trucking companies and bus companies. The new rule is meant to target chameleon carriers. This is achieved through targeting management personnel with a history of disregarding safety and violating the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). Luckily, these individuals won’t be able to sidestep the law and “reincarnate” into yet another bad company.

When the dust settled, Wisla was put on five years probation and fined $75,000. In addition, the company owner and office manager were required to relinquish any ownership interest in Wisla Express. They may not own any portion of the company at all during its five-year probationary period. In addition, neither may work for the company.

It’s a disappointment that this company was not immediately shut down as an imminent hazard to public safety, which the FMCSA has the power to do. Companies like this should be taken off the road before it is too late – before somebody is killed or seriously hurt in a bus accident.

After, it is too late.

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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