Federal safety regulators have shut down a troubled trucking company in Iowa that owned the semitrailer involved in a human trafficking case in which 10 immigrants died in Texas. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration placed Pyle Transportation under an “out-of-service order” after a review found the company’s safety rating so unsatisfactory that it was unfit to remain in business. In July, dozens of immigrants were found packed inside a Pyle-branded semitrailer in the parking lot of a San Antonio, Texas, Walmart. Eight people were found dead inside, and two more died after being hospitalized. The driver, James “Bear” Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida; and Pedro Silva-Segura, 47, of Laredo, Texas, are charged with several offenses, including conspiring to transport and harbor immigrants who are illegally in the U.S. for financial gain. Brian Pyle, who owns Pyle Transportation, 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, Texas, to deliver it to the buyer.
Although the company has not been directly implicated in the deaths of the occupants of the truck, the case drew attention to Pyle’s history of safety violations and failure to pay taxes and wages owed to some employees. 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. Federal data also shows that enforcement officers conducting inspections on Pyle trucks found numerous safety violations nationwide. In August and September, drivers were found to have been working beyond the number of allowed hours, failing to log their hours, carrying overweight loads and driving with tires and brakes that weren’t properly maintained.