Trucking Accidents Involving Chameleon Carriers

Reckless automobile drivers who end up with revoked or suspended licenses aren’t able to go to the local DMV for a new license, but amazingly, owners of trucking companies who have multiple violations can do just that. If a trucking company has had numerous on-the-road violations, insurance issues, serious accidents or problems because of unlicensed drivers, it may be forced to shut down. Just as some retail businesses can close one location and open in another spot under a new name, rogue trucking firms can quickly reappear.

Trucking companies concerned with bad reputations and sub-standard equipment have found loopholes in the federal bureaucracy that make it relatively easy for them to close, change their names, reapply for a new USDOT number, and start rolling down the highway again. This process can be accomplished sometimes within only a few days.

In May of 2011, A North Carolina tour bus careened off the highway in Virginia. A federal agency called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration closed the bus company. Only a few days later, the bus company reappeared under a new name and began operating again.

A passenger carrier, moving company or a freight carrier must apply to the USDOT for a number that allows them to operate on US highways. Over 66,000 applications are received per year, and only two percent are cross-checked. This situation allows companies with problems to cease operations under their old name and resume almost immediately under a new one. Trucking companies that do this have been called chameleon companies, because although they may change their legal names, their troubled trucks and sub-standard drivers remain the same.

The US Government Accountability Office studied a recent five-year period and found that “chameleon” truckers were involved in numerous crashes that killed 217 people and injured over 3,500 more. The auditors were easily able to identify chameleon carriers because of identical names, phone numbers and addresses. They then checked the carriers for past safety or financial issues, and the connections became obvious.

Officials at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration claim they lack resources to do the necessary cross-checking, however, auditors disagree, as they were actually able to create a computer program that did efficient cross-checking.

With such an obvious problem, drivers need to be aware that they share the road with sub-standard “chameleon” carriers. This is a particularly dangerous situation, and anyone who has an accident with a suspect trucking company should contact a qualified and licensed trucking accident attorney.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Newsletter Signup

LinkedIn Logo   Twitter Icon