BANGOR – Irving Oil Corp. is scheduled to be sentenced today for 458 violations of the state’s maximum driving time for commercial drivers during a 1:30 p.m. hearing in Penobscot County Superior Court.
Though an investigation by the state police found 565 violations of the rule, which limits commercial vehicle drivers to 60 hours a week to improve highway and worker safety, the state chose to prosecute 458 of the violations
The violations occurred from December 1998 through February 1999, court documents show.
Of the 458 violations that are being prosecuted, 257 involve exceeding the 60-hour limit by 10 hours or fewer, 41 are for exceeding the cap by more than 10 hours to 20 hours, and 126 are for exceeding the limit by more than 20 hours. The violations occurred in Brewer, Calais, Fort Kent, Houlton, Machias, Millinocket, Portland, Presque Isle, Searsport, Waterville and Wiscasset.
In the company’s defense, Irving officials noted that the violations occurred during an already busy season which saw a spike in demand for heating oil caused by that winter’s ice storm.
Each violation is punishable by a fine of between $250 and $10,000, according to state law.
Among the state’s concerns were that Irving, a “profitable and well-run company with large resources,” had enough money to hire additional workers and train supervisors properly to avoid the violations.
Also troubling was that the violations took place during a period when the Maine Legislature had enacted emergency legislation temporarily extending the 60-hour driving limit for fuel company drivers by 10 hours because of high demand.
Though Irving potentially faced as much as $4.6 million in penalties, Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy recommended that the company be fined $256,000 due to steps the company took to improve safety and eliminate further violations.
According to court documents, Irving hired Carl E. Buchanan Associates, one of New England’s most highly respected investigative agencies, to examine its workplace environment. The company reportedly implemented the resulting recommendations, which were aimed at improving workplace safety.