IOWA CITY (AP) — 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 of Schaller, Iowa, was placed under an “out-of-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, 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.
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, Texas, 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. 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.