The CDC reports that fatigue makes drivers less alert, slows their reaction time, and impairs decision making. Unfortunately, fatigued commercial vehicle drivers have become more prevalent due to chameleon carriers. Loopholes in federal trucking regulations allow these so-called chameleon carriers to avoid liability and penalties through clever organizational restructuring. As reported by CNBC, these carriers avoid enforcement of federal regulations by re-registering with the Department of Transportation under a new name. CNBC’s report states that federal authorities are working to identify these chameleon carriers by analyzing data and looking for patterns of operations including the types of violations and the address of the company. The steps taken to combat this problem by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are detailed on the agency’s website.
Beware of informal Workouts When Dealing with the Trucking or Insurance Company
Before we delve any further into recent trucking accident developments, a word regarding dealing with some insurance companies and some trucking companies. Many times people will attempt to work-out the situation informally because they “are not the type of person to sue.” The representative you speak to on the phone or the truck driver may promise to “take care of everything”. However, that individual does not necessarily make the decisions regarding settlement of matters or the disbursement of company funds.
In short, in many instances and for many reasons the informal deal can fall through. In the meantime evidence has been lost or destroyed, memories of the event have faded, and your injuries may no longer reflect the pain that you suffered. Essentially, proving your personal injury case will be much more difficult than if you contacted a respected and experienced truck accident lawyer immediately who could have taken steps to prevent the spoliation, or destruction, of evidence. Furthermore because personal injury claims must be brought within 2 years of the injury, waiting on an informal work-out can result in your claim being time-barred. A Fayetteville AR personal injury lawyer can help you identify these issues.
Such considerations and protecting yourself from further financial damage can be especially important in light of the problem presented by chameleon carriers.
The Potentially Tragic Consequences of Skirting Safety Regulations
A related CNBC report discusses one tragic chain of events involving a chameleon carrier. This particular incident involved two truckers: Kelly Linhart and Daniel Clarey. In September of 2008, Linhart had pulled his truck to the side of the road to perform a routine inspection. However Linhart never had the chance to complete the inspection. He was struck and killed by fellow-trucker, Clarey, after Clarey veered out of his lane and hit Linhart.
While the report does not go into particulars, Clarey apparently had a previous criminal record for drug offenses including methamphetamine and marijuana. At his deposition, Clarey admitted to being under the influence of methamphetamines at the time of the fatal accident. He pled guilty and was sentenced to 40 months for criminally negligent homicide and DUI.
However the question remains as to how a driver with a questionable past was behind the wheel that day? The CNBC report suggests that it was due to the trucking company he worked for, Forrest Rangeloff. The report characterizes the company as a chameleon carrier because the company’s owner stated at his deposition that he formed the new company because he was unable to obtain a satisfactory rating from the FMCSA. Reports indicate that Rangeloff formed three trucking companies with the third being formed following Linhart’s death. CNBC reports that the third company has since folded due to failure to pay fines.
How widespread is the problem?
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), this problem is not isolated and is pervasive wherever there are commercial trucking routes. The agency reports that in 2010 it suspected that 1,136 new applicants were actually chameleon carriers. Furthermore GAO determined that while 6-percent of carriers in good standing are involved in serious accidents, 18-percent of suspected chameleon carriers are. Perhaps more troubling is that, as of 2012, only moving companies and bus companies were being vetted. While the agency claims that more is now being done to combat this problem, the extent of the new vetting process is not particularly clear. Congressional testimony describes the process that was developed, but it is not apparent as to what extent it has been implemented. However this lack of information and communication may be attributed to the impending resignation of FMCSA chief Anne Ferro. Hopefully the agency will be more forthcoming in informing the public of its efforts and successes once a replacement has been named.
If you have been injured in a truck accident in Arkansas, our experienced truck accident attorneys may be able to secure compensation for you. Put our trucking accident experience to work for you by calling the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak at (479) 316-0438 or contact us online today.