In instituting its New Entrant Safety Assurance Process, the FMCSA tried, among other things, to stop “chameleon carriers,” that is, motor carriers that attempt to register as a new entrant in order to evade enforcement actions taken by the FMCSA to stop the carrier from continuing unsafe practices under its current name. According to the FMCSA, it requests information from every new applicant about its relationship to prior companies and if the company is connected to a prior company, then it will link the histories of the two companies in its records. If the prior company is under enforcement actions, then the FMCSA is supposed to deny the new company’s application.
Consider, though, the case of Hester, Inc., a carrier out of Fayette, Alabama. In March, one of its trucks crossed the median and struck a van carrying 12 members of the Mennonite church, slammed into a rock wall, and burst into flames. The truck driver and ten of the Mennonites were killed. Investigation into the truck accident by the FMCSA revealed “a critical pattern of falsified records of duty status.” According to the FMCSA drivers had forged their log books in at least 40 instances, allowing fatigued drivers to stay on the road in violation of Hours of Service regulations. As a result, on June 5, the FMCSA shut Hester, Inc. down. By June 10, though, the company’s trucks were back on the road with the same drivers, but now under the name FTS Fleet Services..
Just how different is FTS Fleet Services? The company had a different owner. However, the former president was still listed as the current president in the new entrant application for a DOT number. People at the company say his brother is now the de facto president and the former president “works in maintenance.”
Although Federal authorities are now investigating whether this should be considered a “chameleon company,” one wonders why the president being the same for both the former and new company didn’t trigger the FMCSA to deny the application as that of a chameleon carrier.
In fairness to FTS Fleet Services, it is important to note that the new company has a different attitude to safety. FTS has a dedicated safety officer, and the company’s record in roadside safety inspections has dramatically improved. Where the old company failed as much as 12% of its inspections, the failure rate since the name change has been only 1.6%.
Whether FTS is a chameleon company or not, the former owners sold Hester because it presented a good opportunity for profit. When a company deliberately neglects safety rules and this neglect leads to a fatal truck accident, the company’s owners should not be allowed to profit.
One way to take back profits of carriers that operate in defiance of safety regulations is with a truck accident lawsuit. When you pursue compensation, you not only get money for your injuries, but you take away the ill-gotten gains, the filthy lucre that drives these companies. If you have lost a loved one in a fatal truck accident, please contact Robert W. Kerpsack, CO LPA today for a free case evaluation.