Commercial trucks are constantly seen on North Carolina roads. When unsafe trucks are cited for safety violations, the Department of Transportation revokes their driving privileges. Safety inspections and citations are meant to protect the public from unsafe vehicles but many commercial trucking companies have found a way to continue driving on North Carolina roads.
Investigations found that many commercial trucking companies who get shut down for safety violations are able to re-apply with the DOT and continue business as normal. Despite the regulations and monitoring by the DOT, companies who are shut down are able to change their business name, apply for a new DOT identification number and then get back to driving on U.S. roads.
These trucking companies have been dubbed “chameleon carriers” because even though the company changes their name, they are still using the same vehicles and drivers that received prior safety violations. This practice by unsafe commercial companies is well-known by the DOT but it has been difficult for them to monitor.
The government receives roughly 66,000 applications for DOT identification numbers by passenger carriers, freight carriers and moving companies every year. Reports found that 98 percent of the freight carrier applications were not cross-referenced to see if companies who have been shut down for safety violations are just applying under a different name.
While the DOT has been trying to improve their monitoring process, these unsafe commercial trucks have been found to be three times more likely to be involved in severe accidents. During a five-year study, these trucking companies were involved in accidents that killed 217 people and injured more than 3,500 in the U.S.
The dangers of chameleon carriers are a threat to the U.S. public who drive around commercial trucks every day. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that commercial trucking companies that ignore federal safety rules are putting their own drivers and other motorists’ lives at risk and that the government needs to do more to shut down these unsafe vehicles.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said that they don’t have the resources to monitor and keep unsafe commercial trucks off the roads. The agency stated that they are working to strengthen their enforcement efforts and monitoring programs but an improved monitoring system has yet to be created so the federal government’s efforts have yet to be effective.
Source: WRAL, “‘Chameleon’ truckers creating dangerous driving conditions,” Oct. 29, 2012