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US Senator Wants FMCSA to Get Tough with ‘Chameleon Carriers’

truck_rulesTrucking companies that have piled up safety violations shouldn’t be able to avoid those penalties by changing their name, says U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer. Schumer, a Democrat from New York, says it’s time to do away with “chameleon carriers” who pose a threat to everyone on the road.

In a statement released last week, Schumer says he wants the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to impose regulations that will prevent transportation companies with sketchy safety records from operating under a different name. But Schumer also wants the FMCSA to get tough with companies that hire drivers with lousy safety records.

Schumer says these steps will help reduce the number of accidents on America’s roads. “Every one of us has been scared by 18-wheelers hurtling down the highway behind us, wondering what is going to happen next,” he said.

Schumer insists the problem is growing. He says that, in 2010, there were 1,000 companies with “chameleon characteristics” applying for operating permits. In comparison, Schumer says there were only about 750 of these companies looking for permits in 2005.

Chameleon carriers, which Schumer defines as any transportation company that tries to avoid penalties by re-opening under a new name, “are the bad apples that threat to spoil the bunch.” Schumer says it’s time for the Department of Transportation and the FMCSA “to make sure this avenue is closed.”

Schumer isn’t alone in feeling this way. Kendra Hems, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association, says she supports cracking down on chameleon carriers.

“As an industry, safety is one of our main priorities so we’re not fond of the idea of a chameleon carrier,” Hems said. “The problem is there. It’s certainly not indicative of the broader industry. It’s just a small proportion of the folks out there. Certainly action needs to be taken, and we support trying to take those folks off the road.”

The FMCSA has responded to these pleas by saying that it’s working on new rules and policies designed “to keep these unsafe companies off the road.”