October 5, 1996 in Nation/World

Truck Firm Chief Gets Prison For Drowsy Drivers’ Rule-Dodge First Time Criminal Laws Used This Way, Prosecutors Say

Associated Press
 

A trucking company owner who pressured drivers to falsify their logs so they could get around federal safety rules and stay on the road longer was sentenced Friday to 2-1/2 years in prison.

Mark Gunther, the owner of Gunther Leasing Transport Inc., was convicted of two perjury counts in December in what prosecutors said was the first time criminal laws were applied to federal transportation regulations.

His company, based in Hanover, Md., was fined $170,000 as well.

“Mr. Gunther let the drivers ignore the regulations,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew White. “Thank God nobody has been killed yet.”

The charges were part of a crackdown on tired truckers, who the National Transportation Safety Board say are a factor in 40 percent of truck accidents.

Prosecutors said Gunther, 41, had a “wink and nod” agreement with his drivers and that hundreds of logs were falsified to deceive regulators.

He rewarded drivers who falsified logs by assigning them their own trucks and giving them fancy jackets, pins and belt buckles.

Federal regulations prohibit truckers from driving for more than 10 straight hours without taking an eight-hour break and logging more than 70 hours behind the wheel in an eight-day period.

During Gunther’s trial, a trucker testified he had gotten just four hours sleep after a 19-hour trip from New York to Chicago before being dispatched on a run to Ohio during which he fell asleep at the wheel, ran over an empty municipal truck and crashed into a fence.

Gunther, who declined to speak Friday, was allowed to remain free until Jan. 6 so he can spend the holidays with his wife and four children.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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