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New FMCSA rule targeting dangerous management makes it easier to shut down bad truck companies

Written by Steve Gursten Posted February 4th, 2014

FMSCA now has expanded power to shut down habitually dangerous truck and bus companies, like chameleon carriers

Chameleon carriers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCAS) recently published a brand new rule that makes it far easier to shut down dangerous trucking companies or bus companies that have exhibited a pattern of “egregious disregard” for compliance with federal laws.

The rule, Patterns of Safety Violations by Motor Carrier Management, was published in the Federal Register Jan. 22, 2014. It gives the FMCSA the ability to suspend or revoke the operating authority of those bad companies, and will become effective Feb. 21, 2014.

But the rule doesn’t stop there.

It also allows the FMCSA to suspend or revoke operating authority when a trucking company or bus company allows individual people who have a history of “egregious” noncompliance “to exercise controlling influence over their operations.”

Let’s pause for a moment. The second part of the rule seems a little bit odd at first glance. What does it mean? What is it to target trucking companies that allow individuals with a history of noncompliance “to exercise controlling influence” over the company’s operations?

The answer to that question: Chameleon carriers.

We’ve often discussed these dangerous trucking companies on our Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable blog. A chameleon carrier is a trucking company or bus operation that is shut down by the FMCSA for breaking the rules on safety, or for causing serious (preventable) truck accidents or bus accidents. These companies then “reincarnate” under a different company name, a new DOT number, and new operating authority. But in reality, it’s the exact same company. They use the same bad drivers, the same shoddy fleet of semi-trucks and buses, and the same management that prioritizes profit over safety.

Under this new rule, the FMCSA will be able to identify those companies and chameleon carriers, and revoke their operating authority — because the individuals running the company (the same individuals who ran the previous trucking company) are now exercising controlling influence over the trucking operation.

This is a valuable  tool in the war against unsafe chameleon carriers. The FMCSA can shut down these dangerous trucking and bus companies before they even get going, based solely upon the fact that the management has a history of disregarding safety rules.

As an experienced truck accident lawyer, I know that often times  serious truck accidents are entirely preventable. Safety decisions start at the very top of the company, and if there’s no enforcement, then mandatory safety rules become a suggestion that others in the company can choose to ignore.

Most truck wrecks or bus accidents stem from a corporate culture that encourages or compels truckers and bus drivers to break the rules. This new regulation allows the FMCSA to stamp out the source – the people who are running the company.

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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