To protect motorists and ensure trucking companies take safety seriously, the federal government can — and does — shut down dangerous companies from time to time. But, despite the oversight, it’s easier for a reckless company to skate under the radar than you might think.
They even conspire to do it deliberately.
4 Companies, 1 Dangerous Owner
Just this week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced it had shut down 4 trucking companies based in Kansas. These were no ordinary trucking companies.
In the order shutting them down, the FMCSA wrote that the companies were “mere continuations” of one another, created when one company was hit with safety violations. One of the companies had been fined, and another had been ordered out of service. The FMCSA wrote that the man who owned all 4 companies “demonstrated a pattern of creating new companies to avoid the negative compliance history of old companies.”
Ironically – and perhaps unsurprisingly – even the other companies had established less-than-stellar safety records.
This happens often enough that there is a name for trucking companies that engage in this sort of illegal and dangerous behavior: “chameleon carriers.”
The FMCSA estimated that, in 2010, there were more than 1,100 such carriers in the U.S. That adds up to an awful lot of potentially dangerous tractor-trailers on our roads and highways.
It shouldn’t take years of enforcement and oversight to achieve a minimum level of safety. One advocate told the Associated Press last year that trucking is one of the easiest businesses to get into, yet one of the most dangerous to the general public. The harm posed by a trucking company that has no regard for laws in place designed to protect other drivers cannot be understated.
‘No Place on Our Nation’s Highways’
Government-mandated shutdowns even occur right here in Atlanta, where the Truck Accident Attorneys are based.
A month ago, the FMCSA ordered trucks operated by Atlanta-based Southern Transportation, Inc. out of service. According to the government, the company refused to hand over safety documentation it is required to keep and provide upon request. The order, dated March 29, said that without the documentation the operation of any company vehicles would pose “an imminent hazard to public safety.”
The FMCSA was given this authority to shut down companies that don’t provide safety records under a July 2012 law. In announcing the shutdown of Southern Transportation, Ray LaHood, secretary of the Department of Transportation, said companies that don’t cooperate with safety investigators “have no place on our nation’s highways.”
We agree. There can be no assurance of safety without proper documentation, and no one can ensure the validity of that documentation besides government officials well-versed in the rules and regulations that apply to these companies. But it’s rather shocking that it took that long for the agency tasked with overseeing trucking safety to be granted this power.
A Lack of Oversight?
A review by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year found serious problems with the oversight of the trucking industry. According to the research, when a trucking company is shut down, nothing stops its owner from opening up a different company with a different name. If they truck only within Georgia, the new company might never even see a safety review.
The Associated Press detailed a company involved in a 2008 accident that claimed the lives of 7 people. Officials shut the company and told its owner not to start another trucking company. But he did. Inspectors eventually found some 129 violations in roadside inspections of company vehicles and shut it down once again. This time, they charged the owner with a crime.
Trucking cases make up 95% of our work here at the Truck Accident Attorneys. We’ve seen enough cases to know that most trucking companies aren’t looking to deliberately skirt the law and get around safety regulations through devious means. But the fact is that some do. And when they do, innocent drivers who are following all the rules can be hurt.
These are the sorts of people we’re proud to represent, and we have a proven history of winning compensation on their behalf. Contact us today if you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident caused by a semi truck.