– By Michael Hancock
A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) lacks the necessary resources to detect “chameleon” trucking companies on U.S. roads. These renegade commercial trucking companies account for 3,561 injuries and 217 fatal accidents due to trucking accidents on U.S. roads between 2005 and 2010. While the GAO says the FMCSA does not have the resources, critics suggest that it is an allocation issue that could easily be resolved.
“Chameleon” trucking companies are those that have had their licenses suspended and then change their names when re-applying for FMCSA licensing approval. The FMCSA currently only tries to detect chameleons among passenger carriers and moving companies, leaving all other freight carriers to lie about their identities with impunity. Though the FMCSA’s application review process includes some questions to spot chameleons, the auditors charged with reviewing the information do not know how to identify frauds.
As a demonstration that screening all new licensing applicants is not overly burdensome, the GAO created a simple algorithm looking for “chameleon characteristics.” Characteristics include addresses, phone numbers and employees from suspended companies. The GAO’s screening found at least one chameleon characteristic in 1,136 “new” carrier applications in 2010. That is up from 759 applicants in 2005 with such characteristics.
Public safety is the ultimate concern with these suspended carriers trying to backdoor their way onto our roadways. Eighteen percent of carrier applicants with at least one chameleon characteristic were involved in severe motor vehicle accidents, compared to only six percent of carrier applicants with no suspicious attributes. In other words, “new” carriers suspected of being previously suspended are three times more likely to be in a severe crash than truly new motor carriers.
Ironically, the passenger carriers and moving companies screened by the FMCSA only accounted for two percent of new applicants in 2010. Some in the industry believe that many lives could be saved should the FMCSA reallocate resources to look at the unscreened 98 percent of new applicants. There is certainly good reason for the FMCSA to reassess its priorities.
If you or a loved one has been in an accident with a trucking or commerical motor vehicle, call trucking accident attorney Mike Hancock at 813-915-1110 for a free consultation of your case. If we don’t recovery money for you, you don’t pay us.