Some truckers and the companies they work for are willing to pay a lot of money to make safety inspectors look the other way, a CBC investigation has discovered.
Just weeks after a CBC I-Team report revealed 4,800 Canadian trucking companies were caught violating key parts of safety regulations in the last two years, allegations of bribery involving a safety consultant have also surfaced.
'The guy offered me $1,000 cash right now to forget the situation and let him continue on his way.' —Canadian DOT inspector
The FBI alleges in court documents that James Wood, the supervisor of the Buffalo field office of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration took money from the Canadian consultant in exchange for delaying a safety audit of a trucking company.
Wood allegedly took thousands over a period of two years in bribes, according to the FBI, who engaged in a covert operation that led to charges in the case. He has pleaded not guilty.
U.S. prosecutors have refused to identify the companies the consultant represented. If convicted, Wood, 44, faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 or both.
"This is a very serious charge and that’s why the maximum penalty can be up to 15 years," said Trini Ross, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Bribes attempted 4 times: inspector
But a Canadian inspector who works for a provincial department of transportation says attempted bribery is nothing out of the ordinary. He agreed to speak with CBC News on the condition of anonymity.
The inspector said he refused bribes four times over a period of six years. In one case, the bribe was more than the fine would have been, he stated.
"[The company] had an overweight [infraction], they were stopped with no permits in place. The fine would have been $700-800 and the guy offered me $1,000 cash right now to forget the situation and let him continue on his way," he said.
"It’s not isolated to me," the inspector added. "I’ve heard of other inspectors talking about it."
A safety advocate who lost her father in a trucking accident said it’s essential to have integrity in the safety-regulation field to help ensure the public is protected.
"If you don’t have legitimate and honest people in those places, then change is never going to happen," said Dawn King.
Her father, William Badger, was killed in 2004, just two days before Christmas, when a tractor-trailer rammed his vehicle from behind on a highway in Georgia.