A former employee of a Baltimore-area trucking company testified yesterday in U.S. District Court that he and others falsified logs to cover up that drivers were exceeding federal limits on the number of hours they were permitted to drive each day.
Louis Dale Higgins, who was a driver and safety supervisor for Gunther's Leasing Transport Inc. from 1988 until 1992, said he probably altered thousands of logs to show that drivers were complying with federal regulations that limit them to 10 hours a day on the road followed by eight consecutive hours off duty.
Gunther's Leasing Transport Inc. of Hanover, and its president, Mark David Gunther of Pasadena, were indicted in June on eight counts of conspiracy to defraud, false statements and perjury. The trial before Judge William M. Nickerson is expected to last about two weeks.
The alleged practice of requiring drivers to exceed the 10-hour limit and falsifying records to hide it is said to be widespread in the trucking industry, but this case is believed by prosecutors to be the first time a company has faced federal felony charges.
Mr. Gunther's attorney, David B. Irwin, said the charges stem from disputes that are common in a federal audit of any trucking company and usually are resolved in an administrative hearing. "We think this case should be in civil court, not in criminal court," Mr. Irwin said. "[Mr. Gunther] is being unfairly singled out."
Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara S. Sale, Mr. Higgins, who was the company's safety supervisor until 1992, said that when drivers turned in logs showing they exceeded the 10-hour limit, he would routinely alter them to show compliance.
When Ms. Sale asked Mr. Higgins how often he had drivers sign allegedly falsified logs. "Honestly, I'd have to say thousands," he said.