The commercial trucking industry has long had a problem with so-called "chameleon carriers" - trucking companies that simply reopen under a new name after being shut down for serious and repeated safety violations.
Currently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration investigates new applications for bus companies and household goods carriers to root out chameleons. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the resources to also track commercial trucking companies.
Amid concerns over trucking safety on our nation's highways, some members of Congress called on the General Accounting Office to investigate the FMCSA's ability to properly root out unsafe carriers. The GAO's inquiry determined that the government's tracking process is "not well designed to identify suspected chameleon carriers." It recommended that the FMSCA expand its investigative system.
The FMCSA does have plans for expansion. It wants to launch an online unified registration system that would make it much easier to identify new incarnations of previously shuttered trucking companies.
This effort will go a long way to improve safety, but it can't be made unless Congress agrees to give the agency more money. FMCSA officials are hoping that the GAO's report will help push lawmakers to direct more resources to the issue of highway safety.
The change can't come soon enough. According to the GAO, 18 percent of chameleon carriers are involved in severe trucking accidents. The severe crash rate is only 6 percent for non-chameleon carriers. Hopefully, Congress will give the FMCSA the money it needs to crack down on unsafe trucking companies.
Source: The Trucker, "Show Me the Money: FMCSA Could Get Green to Catch Chameleon Carriers," Lyndon Finney, April 10, 2012.