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Federal Update
Breaking the cycle
GAO says bad karma needs to catch up with reincarnated motor carriers

By Charlie Morasch
staff writer

 

One Texas carrier reregistered with FMCSA under the Spanish version of its original name to avoid paying $143,000 in fines, though the company’s address, phone, and company officer remained the same.

A New York bus company was placed out-of-service and didn’t pay a fine. Instead, the carrier simply reregistered from a church next door.

A report to Congress says that dozens of “reincarnated” motor carriers have gone out of business to avoid fixing safety problems or paying fines and are re-emerging under new identities, a practice long condemned by OOIDA.

The Government Accountability Office recently released a report focused mostly on bus companies that avoid safety issues and fines by shutting down and restarting under a new name.

Besides motor coaches, the report also showed how a lack of enforcement allows many questionable trucking companies to keep rolling.

The report showed 1,073 potentially reincarnated trucking companies during fiscal years 2007 and 2008, including 500 that were still active in June.

FMCSA and state law enforcement agencies conduct 2.3 million vehicle inspections annually, but are able to conduct compliance reviews on only about 2 percent of motor carriers.

GAO identified 20 motor coach companies that were reincarnated from out-of-service carriers, although that number is likely understated.

For years, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has asked FMCSA to improve its ability to track these types of chameleon carriers.

Rick Craig, OOIDA director of regulatory affairs, said the Association hopes future investigations eye more trucking operations, which can avoid fines and court orders by shutting down and starting new companies.

“It allows all these scammers to keep screwing people and continue violating the law,” Craig said. “They steal money and operate unsafely and then disappear, just to open up under a new name and do the same things all over again.”

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, said the next highway bill will require the DOT to do “a more thorough check” to keep rogue operators from rising from the dead.

“No motor coach company should ever be allowed to ‘reincarnate’ and continue to operate on our nation’s highways without making the necessary safety improvements,” DeFazio said in a statement. LL

 

charlie_morasch@landlinemag.com

Aug/Sept Digital Edition