All drivers should be aware of a relatively new practice that is endangering cars and trucks on the road. This practice is referred to as reincarnated motor carriers or chameleon carriers and it creates incredibly unsafe driving conditions that often lead to accidents. The reason that this practice is so insidious is because it is very difficult to regulate or prevent.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) performs roughly 11 million roadside inspections each year. These roadside inspections are performed at those ever present weigh stations that can be seen on every major highway in the U.S. These inspections are similar to yearly car inspections, checking the trucks to make sure they are road worthy and safe for both the driver of the truck and safe for other vehicles driving near the truck. Each year roughly 20% of trucks fail this inspection.
When a truck fails an inspection, due to limited space at the weigh station, it is often directed to drive back to its base of operations and then to stay off the road until all violations are corrected. This is where reincarnated motor carriers come in. Some companies, instead of correcting the violations, will simply apply for a new DOT (Department of Transport) number, which is less expensive and takes less time than correcting the violations and paying any associated fines. This trick can even work when a company has a history of violations, because a new DOT number wipes the slate clean. At the most devious, sometimes a company will transfer all trucks to a sister company with a different DOT number owned by the same parent company and continue to leave a dangerous fleet of vehicles driving on the road. Read the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s report on this issue here.
Reincarnated Motor Carriers in the Real World
This problem isn’t simply theoretical. It has reared its ugly head time and again. In June of 2012, the FMCSA ordered Three Angels Farms and its entire fleet of trucks out of service after a history of safety violations and a determination that its trucks were a danger to the traveling public. Just a few weeks later the FMCSA shut down Terri Farm after determining that the company was simply a reincarnation of Three Angels Farm that was still driving the same dangerous fleet of trucks. Not only did the owner of this company violate the law, but these poor safety practices led directly to the deaths of four horses that were being transported by one of the vehicles owned by this company.
In the case of the Three Angels Farms accident that was directly attributable to violating FMCSA safety regulations, despite the deaths of the four horses, no human lives were lost. But that is not the norm for truck accidents. By violating FMCSA regulations, these motor carriers negligently risk the lives of their drivers and other travelers on the road. Trucks that fail inspection are significantly more likely to break down or cause an accident that will result in serious injury or death. The FMCSA gained some new weapons to combat this in May of 2012, but it is still a plague on the roads and highways of the United States. Right now the best defense available is that the FMCSA can refuse to grant a new DOT number to any company previously found to have engaged in this practice. In addition to knowing about reincarnated motor carries, learn more about stopping driver negligence before a disaster occurs, here.