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FMCSA shuts down a dangerous Alabama “chameleon carrier” truck company, gives owners jail time

Written by Steve Gursten Posted November 15th, 2013

After discovering a reincarnated dangerous trucking company in violation of out-of-service order, FMCSA comes down hard on owners of IDM Transportation

Chameleon carriers

I recently came across a story where the owners of an Alabama trucking company were sentenced to prison for their roles in running a “chameleon carrier.”  Chameleon carriers are bad trucking companies that break the law, cause truck accidents, are penalized, and then “reincarnate” as a new trucking company to skirt penalties and avoid increased insurance premiums. In reality, the “new” company is using the same dangerous semi-trucks, the same dangerous truckers, and the same greedy management who values profit over safety.

Well, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is making a push to crack down on these bad trucking companies and get dangerous semi-trucks off of the road. The key, however, is that the truck safety crackdown on chameleon carriers continues … full speed ahead. The fight against chameleon carriers was a central part of the MAP-21 legislation signed into law by President Obama in July 2012.

The FMCSA appears to be gaining ground in the fight, as shown by this story. Back in December of 2010, the FMCSA conducted a routine compliance review of a bad trucking company called IDM Transportation. The review disclosed serious violations of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). Shortly after, the agency issued an out of service order against IDM.

The out of service order prohibited IDM from operating in any capacity. This included operating under another alias, or contracting through another company. Despite this order, in 2011, one of the owners of IDM formed a new trucking company called BM&L. He subsequently enlisted his old pals who were part of the old, dangerous trucking company, IDM.

The owner failed to disclose his involvement with the former trucking company on a Form OP-1 when he applied for operating authority for his, and his partners’, new company. A Form OP-1 is required to be filed with the Department of Transportation seeking permission for the motor carrier to operate in the United States.

On the form, the owner falsely certified to FMCSA that he had no relationship with an agency regulated entity for the past three years. This was clearly false.

This was a blatant – and sadly familiar – classic attempt at establishing a chameleon carrier.

A year later, during another routine FMCSA inspection of BM&L trucking, the FMCSA again discovered far-reaching, egregious safety violations, nearly identical to those found during their original inspection of IDM.

Subsequently, the owner, a Mr. Isaac McWilliams, was charged. He was just sentenced to four months incarceration, and ordered to pay a special assessment fee. His partner and fellow offender, Heronda Williams, was sentenced to 24 months’ probation, and ordered to pay the same special assessment fee.
As a truck accident attorney having handled hundreds of serious truck accident cases, these kinds of offenses are infuriating. Not only do these bad trucking companies (including their bad owners) not care about safety, but in this case, they do not even care about the FMCSA and the penalties assessed to them!

These men put lives at risk, and then when they were punished and put out of service, they found a loophole to start up a “brand new” operation. Chameleon carriers are extremely dangerous. They are very hard to stamp out. These companies put lives at risk, and when they are shut down or penalized, they reincarnate making them difficult to track.

The one silver lining about this story is that thankfully (and luckily), these dangerous men and their shameful, dangerous trucking company, were shut down before they could seriously injure somebody in a terrible truck accident. The FMCSA did a good job snuffing out this dangerous chameleon carrier. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, and  it will continue to drive these bad companies off of the highway.

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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