Unsafe Carriers Dodging Responsibility with a Loophole?
Trucking companies are legally required to comply with safety mandates. Everything from drug screenings of drivers to inspections for trucks play a role in how safe a carrier is. Whether by accident or intention, many carriers fall short of regulatory compliance and put the public at risk.
Even if a trucking company doesn’t cause any accidents, just the discovery of a safety violation can land them in trouble. Enough violations can destroy a carrier’s reputation completely. While this is a type of natural market regulation, some carriers are exploiting a loophole to avoid responsibility.
Safety advocates in the freight industry have recently brought up a new topic – chameleon carriers. This is a term given to trucking companies that, after sustaining damage to their reputation, change their image to avoid being held accountable. But rather than changing their ways, companies with poor safety records and inspection results simply change their name and begin operating under a new moniker.
But the name isn’t the only aspect of the company that is changed – the DOT number is switched as well.
For carriers, the goal is simple – make it look like the new company is not related to the old one in any way. While the names and numbers may be new, these carriers often have the same employees (and the same problems) as before.
This issue can do more harm than many would think. While the immediate threat presented by this loophole is that of unsafe companies operating on US highways, changes like this can also have an impact in the legal environment.
One company was sued for allowing a driver to travel in a vehicle with severe mechanical problems. The late driver’s family took legal action after the fatal crash occurred, and won a $2.5 million settlement. However, because the old company no longer (technically) exists, the family has been unable to collect.