Baton Rouge, LA- A loophole in federal laws allows trucking companies that have been deemed safety hazards to continue operations, but some legislators are taking steps to keep these dangerous companies from putting bad truck drivers on the road and putting innocent lives at risk.
Senator Charles Schumer, (D- NY) has introduced legislation that would forbid so-called “chameleon carriers from operating once the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has labeled them as imminent hazards. Once ordered to close and cease operations, “chameleon carriers,” can easily open a new carrier by simply changing the name of the company, altering the owners name slightly or naming a new owner. They are able to continue using the same unsafe trucks and drivers and are putting many lives at risk. While these companies change their names, they still engage in risky business practices that put unsafe vehicles and drivers on the roads.
To demonstrate how dangerous we can look to an accident that happened in upstate New York this past June. A truck driver for Quality Relocation Services was involved in a fatal Ithaca truck accident that left a pregnant woman dead and destroyed an art gallery and restaurant.
In the aftermath of the accident, it was discovered that the deadly truck collision was caused by brake failure.
An investigation of a Quality Relocation Services revealed that company has been ordered to close in the past because they were repeatedly cited for failing to maintain and inspect their trucks. The truck involved in the fatal Ithaca accident was supposed to be put out of service in 2012. In 2013, the same truck was deemed unsafe due to faulty brakes, but the company’s owner kept it on the road despite the known risks.
The FMCSA also found that Quality Relocation Services continued to allow drivers on the road who had been cited for violating federal hour-of-service rules and falsifying driver’s log books. The unscrupulous owner of this truck company allowed hired drivers before testing them for drug use and allowed drivers behind the wheel before their drug test results were returned.
Our team of Louisiana truck accident attorneys know that the days a weeks after a truck accident can be very difficult time for the victim and their loved ones. They will listen to the concerns of their victims and guide them through the process of getting a favorable truck accident settlement.
In 2010–the latest data available—the Department of Transportation flagged over 1,100 truck companies as possible chameleon carriers after noticing similarities between owner and employee names or similar addresses listed on applications carrier submit to obtain their operating license.
The FMCSA has already taken steps to stop chameleon carries, but Senator Schumer would like the federal agency to also look at truck driver safety records when evaluating their operator applications according to the Trucker. Under current FMCDA rules, these records are not part of the screening process. Sen. Schumer believes changing this rule will help the agency more readily identify chameleon carriers and prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries.
In a statement reported by the Trucker, Schumer acknowledged that most trucking companies and truck drivers are safe, but said there “are always a few bad apples that spoil the bunch.” He noted that chameleon carries are able to shirk federal regulations and consequences “by shutting down their business and re-emerging under a new name.”
Schumer said, “There is a gap in the federal approval process for companies with poor track records — and it’s a gap so large you could drive a truck through it.” He added, “That is why I am urging the FMCSA today to include individual driver and company history when screening new permits so we can cut down on the number of chameleon carriers.”