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Shell Game Permits “Chameleon” Trucking Companies to Operate Despite Poor Safety Records

The toll in permanent debilitating injuries and fatalities claimed by crashes involving large commercial trucks continues to rise as the economy expands.  A fatal trucking accident occurs eleven times every day according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) data.  These devastating collisions cause the death of 4,000 people and injury to a 100,000 more who share our roadways each year.  Trucking collisions do not attract media attention comparable to commercial plane crashes even though these numbers are the equivalent of a commuter jet crash every week of the year with a 100 percent fatality rate.

Although thousands of deaths per year would prompt calls for increased regulation and improved safety standards in most industries, the response to the epidemic of trucking accidents has been relatively muted.  Presumably, this muted response is attributable to the distribution of deaths at disparate times in small numbers across the U.S.  The media’s focus on the recent fatal crash involving a Walmart truck and Tracy Morgan was an exception.  A key reason that the number of trucking accidents has continued to rise in recent years involves the growing phenomena of “chameleon” trucking companies.

A “chameleon carrier” is a trucking company that re-registers with the U.S. Department of Transportation to avoid liability issues or problems with their safety rating.  When trucking companies cannot get a satisfactory rating, which indicates that they are in compliance with FMCSA regulations, they often close the company and evade paying fines by starting up a new company.  This strategy has allowed commercial carriers and drivers with abysmal safety records to remain on the roadways of Florida.

The practice of using this shell game approach to evade federal regulations, fines, and mandatory out-of-service orders is fairly widespread.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that 1,136 recent applicants were suspected to be chameleon carriers.  These renegade trucking companies disproportionately cause semi-truck accident injuries and fatalities.  The GAO has reported that chameleon carriers are three times more likely to be involved in crashes resulting in severe injuries and fatalities.

Many commercial carriers with poor safety records stemming from regulatory infractions, traffic citations, and collisions continue to operate.  Federal safety authorities have been ineffective at targeting wayward carriers that change their ownership and/or name to avoid out-of-service orders and fines.  The GAO indicated during 2012 that it was only screening two percent of applications for prior poor safety records.  Federal authorities are now using a process called “vetting” to search for patterns in a commercial carrier’s operation that indicate the company shares an address with a business that has been shut down.  However, many trucking companies using this shell game tactic of closing under one name and re-opening under another continue to put others on Florida roadways at risk.

Greenberg Stone and Urbano:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Injuries and Wrongful Death Caused by Negligent Commercial Carriers and Truck Drivers

If you or a family member has been injured in a semi-truck collision, our Florida Commercial Truck Accident Lawyers at Greenberg Stone and Urbano tenaciously defend our clients’ rights and pursue a maximum recovery.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

 

 

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