- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
- Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles
Media Contact for Truck Rental Company and Six Inspectors Sued for Issuing Fraudulent Vehicle Inspection Stickers
BOSTON — A national truck rental company and six of its commercial vehicle inspectors have been sued for allegedly issuing passing inspection certificates to motor vehicles that underwent fraudulent safety and emissions inspections — most of which occurred at its New Bedford facility, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
The lawsuit, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges Penske Leasing and Rental Company and licensed inspector employees Frank Gregory, Jeffrey Adams, Justin Travers, Aaron Milosek, Allen Russell, and Alex Martinez violated regulations under the Massachusetts Clean Air Act’s Motor Vehicle Inspection Program, the Massachusetts Inspection and Maintenance Act, and the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act when they failed to lawfully and completely conduct 189 safety and emissions inspections on the fleet of trucks that Penske rents and leases for commercial use.
“We allege these defendants put public safety and our clean air at risk when they falsely certified that their rental trucks had successfully completed safety and emissions inspections,” AG Healey said. “We’re grateful to our partner agencies for working with us to hold Penske and its inspectors accountable for threatening the safety of both the unsuspecting customers who leased these trucks and everyone on our roads.”
“Diesel trucks are responsible for the majority of on-road emissions of particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen,” said Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “It is critical these vehicles are inspected properly to ensure their emission control components are working as designed.”
“The Registry of Motor Vehicles appreciates the efforts of the Attorney General’s Office and MassDEP in investigating and pursuing this case of alleged wrongdoing in issuing passing inspection certificates to motor vehicles that underwent fraudulent safety and emissions inspections,” said Acting RMV Registrar Colleen Ogilvie. “Uninspected vehicles can pose a safety hazard to the vehicle occupants and to the general public. It is vital that all vehicle owners and inspectors follow statutory requirements for annual vehicle inspections.”
Penske operates more than 3,200 locations nationwide. The incomplete inspections alleged in the AG’s complaint primarily took place at Penske’s facility at 1242 Shawmut Avenue in New Bedford. Penske holds a vehicle inspection station license under the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Registry of Motor Vehicles’ (RMV) jointly administered Vehicle Check Program. The Program recently began requiring vehicle inspections to be video recorded and the videos of the inspection violations in the complaint allegedly demonstrate that, among several other omissions, Penske’s inspectors repeatedly failed to inspect the condition of the trucks’ brake components, headlamps, and wheels and rims. In many instances, the inspectors allegedly never looked under the vehicle.
Specifically, the AG’s lawsuit alleges Penske inspectors failed to properly conduct 129 safety inspections and conducted at least 123 fraudulent emissions inspections of its fleet of vehicles, including heavy-duty diesel-powered trucks (weighing more than 10,000-pounds). These trucks were subject to smoke opacity testing, which measures the density of black smoke in a vehicle’s exhaust. According to the complaint, the Penske inspectors used a variety of illegal methods to falsify passing results for Penske’s trucks or evade monitoring, including failing to put the smoke reader fully into the tailpipe, using a video of a different vehicle being inspected, or conducting the test out of view of the agencies’ cameras. The inspectors then allegedly affixed stickers to the vehicles signifying that they had passed inspection, when in fact, they had not been legally inspected.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties along with costs of investigation and litigation, including attorney’s fees. The AG’s Office is also requesting that the court permanently enjoin the defendants from conducting vehicle inspections under the Vehicle Check Program.
Diesel engines emit a toxic mix of pollutants, causing adverse health impacts, such as asthma, increased risk for cardiovascular disease, increased emergency room visits, birth defects, premature births, and other respiratory illnesses. New research suggests that exposure to pollutants emitted from vehicle tailpipes, such as nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter, increases COVID-19 mortality rates. In May 2020, AG Healey issued a brief on the environmental factors, including elevated exposure to particulate matter pollution, that have compounded the COVID-19 pandemic’s disparate impact on communities of color in Massachusetts, and the steps the state should take to address the longstanding impact of environmental injustice on those communities.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Laila Atta and Jillian Riley, both of AG Healey’s Energy and Environment Bureau, with assistance from MassDEP Senior Counsel Jennifer Davis, Julie Ross and Craig Woleader of MassDEP’s Enhanced Emissions and Safety Test Program, and Terrence Hayes of the Registry of Motor Vehicle’s Vehicle Safety & Compliance Services Department.