New system designed to catch dangerous “chameleon carriers”

The Interstate Commerce Commission has joined the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in proposing a new information system to keep track of trucking companies that have been shut down for safety violations. This new registration and identification system aims to keep carriers from reinventing themselves in an attempt to thwart enforcement. Such carriers are referred to in the industry as “chameleon carriers.”

Every year, a surprising number of trucking companies are shut down for safety violations and choose to simply reopen under a new name, as if a fresh start solves the problem. For example, in 2010, one carrier, Hester Inc., was put out-of-service for failing a compliance review. The president of the company signed a new operating application for different carrier, on which he stated that he had no previous association with any motor carrier. His misbehavior went undetected under the then existing system.

As of 2010, there were more than 500,000 active commercial carriers in the United States, and thousands more applicants just waiting to join the ranks. A recent study by the General Accounting Office found that an increasing number of these carriers are exhibiting “chameleon” characteristics. In fact, the number has seen a fifty percent (50%) increase in five years from almost 800 in 2005 to nearly 1,200 in 2010.

Currently, the FMCSA does not have the staff or the technological infrastructure to investigate all commercial carriers and applications that may be tied to previously existing firms.  Due to being stretched so thin the agency’s current efforts are limited to household goods carriers and commercial bus companies.  The agency is hoping that once the new information system is in place it will help remedy some of these problems. However, financing from Congress must be secured before the system can be fully implemented. Hopefully Congress recognizes the importance of such a system and puts money in place to help limit the ability of these “chameleon carriers” to further evade the law.

Pope McGlamry P.C., a Georgia law firm with offices in Atlanta and Columbus, is a recognized leader in the field of civil litigation. The firm specializes in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases, particularly those involved with motor carrier liability or products liability. If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck wreck because of the carelessness of another driver, contact our personal injury attorneys today.

Source: “Show Me the Money: FMCSA Could Get Green to Catch Chameleon Carriers,” by Lyndon Finney,