Dangers of Chameleon Truck Companies

When a trucking company develops a consistent pattern of unsafe operating practices and begins to collect federal and/or state violations, that carrier will more than likely catch the attention of the FMCSA. In some cases, the agency will even shut the business down.

This had led to what is commonly referred to as chameleon carriers. They are also sometimes referred to as “zombies.” These are companies who have either been shut down by the government or shut down on their own before the government has a chance to, but then reopen for business under a different name. In the majority of cases, these carriers continue to operate with the same disregard for safety, using defective trucks, drivers with multiple violations, and other unsafe practices.

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Investigation

Several years ago, the GAO conducted an investigation on the FMCSA’s response to chameleon carriers. The results of that investigation were alarming. The report detailed how the agency does not have any idea how many trucking companies are actually chameleon carriers due to a lack of resources to do so. Instead, the FMCSA focuses on new applications, relying on its vetting resources, in its efforts to identify these dangerous companies.

The investigation also found that:

  • Almost 20 percent of new applicants that have “chameleon attributes” were involved in severe truck accidents, compared with only 6 percent of applicants that showed no attributes.
  • During one five-year period of study, new trucking company applicants were three times more likely to be involved in a crash that involved deaths and/or catastrophic injuries than other new applicants. More than 200 victims were killed by chameleon trucking companies during this period. Another 3,500 suffered serious injuries.

Chameleon companies are everywhere, including right here in North Carolina. Several years ago, a news investigation found one company was operating under its third incarnation, despite being responsible for multiple deadly accidents.

The company was first shut down in 2009 for bad practices, however, just by adding “incorporated” to the company name, the owner was able to obtain a new Department of Transportation (DOT) number and begin operating again. Three years later, two truck drivers who were employed by the company were killed when the vehicle they were in suffered a tire blowout and the truck went off the road. Two years after that, a truck driver working for the company tried to run a woman off the highway twice, leaving the victim severely injured. She died a few months later from her injuries.

Contact a North Carolina Truck Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in any type of truck accident, contact Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to discuss what legal recourse you may have. Truck accident cases can be complex, and it is not uncommon for there to be multiple at-fault parties who are responsible for the payment of financial damages you may be entitled to for your injuries. Call our office today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our dedicated North Carolina truck accident attorneys. Our personal injury firm has successfully represented many injured victims and their families, and we are happy to meet with you and offer legal guidance on what the best options may be for your circumstances.