A Baltimore County trucking company was fined $391,500 yesterday because some of its drivers work too many hours and then try to hide that fact.
The action taken by the Federal Highway Administration against George Transfer Inc. of Parkton represents the fourth time the company has been fined by the federal agency for unsafe practices since 1992.
Under federal law, truck drivers can drive no more than 10 hours without an eight-hour rest or no more than a total of 70 hours over eight days.
"We don't want drivers being fatigued, not when they are running a large commercial vehicle that may weigh 80,000 pounds," said John D. Steinhoff, regional director of the agency's Office of Motor Carriers.
Mr. Steinhoff said he has no evidence that George Transfer employees are involved in more accidents than other drivers, however. Of the 450 violations that led to yesterday's federal action, 135 were instances in which the company either required or permitted drivers to falsify their driving logs to hide their true work hours.
George Transfer employs 667 drivers. The firm, which specializes in aluminum and steel hauling, maintains 37 terminals in 24 states.
Edward A. Gallagher, George's president, said company officials are not guilty of the alleged violations and plan to appeal them. George Transfer does not have "a problem of the magnitude the Department of Transportation is talking about," he said.
"I don't know if I am more mystified or horrified by the charges," Mr. Gallagher said. "I don't know where they're coming from."
The violations included one instance of a driver using or possessing a radar detector, a device banned from trucks by the federal government earlier this year.
George Transfer's records will be checked again in "six to nine months," Mr. Steinhoff said, and unless they show improvement, the government may choose to declare the company "imminently hazardous" and move to shut it down.