Schumer calls for FMCSA to close loophole for chameleon carriers

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 12/4/2014

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is calling for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to include information about individual drivers to improve the agency’s screening protocols used to identify reincarnated or “chameleon” carriers.

In a letter to acting FMCSA administrator Scott Darling, Sen. Schumer, D-N.Y., urged the agency to include driver information as part of the algorithm used to identify motor carriers that artificially shut down their business to skirt safety regulations, then re-form under a new name.

“Chameleon carriers often re-form with the same management, same dangerous vehicles, same unfit drivers, and same unsafe ways,” Schumer’s letter stated. “FMCSA must do all that it can to ensure that truck drivers with a proven history of unsafe behavior are not able to get a new job at the same old unsafe company.”

A member of the Senate’s Housing, Transportation and Community Development Committee, Schumer said he “applauds” FMCSA’s recent steps to develop a data-driven system for vetting motor carriers. The final product is expected to be released in October 2015.

“We appreciate Sen. Schumer’s support of our aggressive efforts to combat chameleon carriers, and Acting Administrator Darling will respond to him directly on the new rules and policies we are taking to keep these unsafe companies off the road,” the agency said in a response emailed to Land Line on Thursday.

FMCSA has already implemented stricter new entrant vetting policies and financial penalties to prevent unsafe bus companies from avoiding their enforcement history by reincarnating under new names and USDOT numbers.

Earlier this year, the agency published a new rule on Patterns of Safety Violations, which gives it authority to shut down a bus or truck company if the company, or a company officer, has a history of purposely violating federal safety regulations. The new rule complements a rule adopted by the agency in 2012 to apply out-of-service orders to reincarnated or chameleon carriers and to consolidate their enforcement histories.

Schumer’s letter also cited a 2012 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which suggests that the number of new motor carrier applicants to FMCSA with chameleon attributes has been increasing in recent years. The GAO identified 1,136 such carriers in 2010, up from 759 in 2005.

“The majority of truck companies and drivers understand the importance of safety,” Schumer said in the letter. “Very few companies will ever become chameleon carriers, as most companies that receive violations quickly take steps to improve the safety of their operations. The small number of chameleon carriers, however, affect the reputation of the entire trucking industry, and pose risks on our roadways.”

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