Reg­u­la­tors close truck­ing com­pany linked to traf­fick­ing case in Texas

Houston Chronicle - - BUSINESS - By Ryan J. Fo­ley

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Fed­eral safety reg­u­la­tors have shut down a trou­bled Iowa truck­ing com­pany that owned the semi­trailer in­volved in a hu­man traf­fick­ing case in which 10 im­mi­grants died in Texas.

Pyle Trans­porta­tion was placed un­der an “outof-ser­vice or­der” Mon­day by the Fed­eral Mo­tor Car­rier Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion af­ter a re­view found the com­pany’s safety rat­ing was so un­sat­is­fac­tory that it was un­fit to re­main in busi­ness, agency spokesman Duane DeBruyne said.

Dozens of im­mi­grants were found packed inside a Pyle-branded semi­trailer in July in the park­ing lot of a San An­to­nio Wal­mart. Eight peo­ple were found dead inside, and two more died af­ter be­ing hos­pi­tal­ized. The driver, James “Bear” Bradley Jr., 60, of Clear­wa­ter, Fla.; and Pedro Silva-Se­gura, 47, of Laredo, are charged with sev­eral of­fenses, in­clud­ing con­spir­ing to trans­port and har­bor im­mi­grants who are il­le­gally in the U.S. for fi­nan­cial gain.

Pyle Trans­porta­tion owner Brian Pyle has de­nied knowl­edge of the al­leged smug­gling con­spir­acy. He has said that he sold the trailer and hired Bradley, who had worked pre­vi­ously for the firm, as a con­trac­tor to drive it to Brownsville to de­liver it to the buyer.

Bradley de­nied know­ing any­one was inside the trailer, say­ing he heard their pleas only af­ter he stopped to uri­nate. But at least 39 peo­ple were packed inside, most of them Mex­i­cans who had crossed the United States’ south­ern bor­der. The trailer’s cool­ing sys­tem was bro­ken, and oc­cu­pants say they fought to breathe and tried in vain to get the trailer to stop as it headed north in 100-de­gree heat.

While the com­pany has not been di­rectly im­pli­cated in the case, it drew un­wanted at­ten­tion to Pyle’s his­tory of safety vi­o­la­tions and fail­ure to pay taxes and wages owed to some driv­ers. Sev­eral for­mer em­ploy­ees said they were pres­sured to drive too many hours with­out rest, to fal­sify their logs to con­ceal those vi­o­la­tions and to trans­port over­weight loads on un­re­al­is­tic dead­lines.

Fed­eral reg­u­la­tors launched a com­pli­ance re­view into Pyle, which had been op­er­at­ing with a “con­di­tional” safety rat­ing due to prior vi­o­la­tions, af­ter the hu­man traf­fick­ing case.

In­for­ma­tion re­leased this week shows the com­pany was cited for know­ingly al­low­ing an em­ployee to drive with a dis­qual­i­fied com­mer­cial driver’s li­cense and per­mit­ting a driver to make a false re­port re­gard­ing his duty sta­tus. It’s un­clear whether those vi­o­la­tions were tied to Bradley, whose com­mer­cial driv­ing priv­i­leges had been dis­qual­i­fied by Florida for fail­ing to file up­dated med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion.

A woman who an­swered the phone at the Pyle of­fice in Schaller, in north­west Iowa, de­clined to com­ment. The com­pany em­ployed 18 driv­ers who logged an es­ti­mated 830,000 miles in 2013, the lat­est for which fig­ures were avail­able.

Eric Gay / Associated Press file

A Pyle Trans­porta­tion-branded semi­trailer, right, is towed from the lot of a San An­to­nio Wal­mart. Ten of the im­mi­grants inside died.

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