Study: FMCSA lacks resources to take on chameleon carriers

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 3/28/2012

The federal government lacks the proper resources to detect chameleon carriers, a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office has found. In addition to the findings, the authors say the FMCSA could cast a wider net by implementing relatively simple changes to its new entrant program.

Under the current program, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does not even attempt to identify chameleon carriers in the freight sector, choosing instead to focus limited resources on passenger carriers.

Chameleon carriers are those that assume new identities to evade detection after having had revoked or been denied authority.

The GAO suggests the FMCSA could adapt its new entrant screenings to detect common addresses, phone numbers and company officers of freight carriers. The screening could also detect motives for reincarnation including unsatisfactory safety ratings, severe crash involvement, fines, OOS orders, imminent hazard order or bankruptcy.

During the study, the GAO developed its own algorithm to search new entrants for chameleon characteristics. That algorithm found that 1,136 new motor carrier applicants in 2010 displayed one or more chameleon characteristics.

In addition, the authors found that chameleon carriers had three times more crashes than all other new entrants. They also found 217 fatalities and 3,561 injuries between 2005 and 2010 that could be laid at the feet of chameleon carriers.

OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz says that by adapting a system similar to what the GAO did to do the study, the FMCSA could make headway to reduce crashes, injuries and deaths.

“It’s quite apparent from reading the GAO report that FMCSA, by redeploying just a few people to monitor applications, could actually reduce crashes and fatalities,” Rajkovacz said.

“When viewed through the bigger picture of other, more costly initiatives such as a universal EOBR mandate, identifying chameleon carriers and keeping them from operating would appear to be a more prudent use of agency resources to achieve safety goals.”

Rajkovacz said OOIDA contributed input for the study, which was titled New Applicant Reviews Should Expand to Identify Freight Carriers Evading Detection.

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