The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has the power to shut down truck carries that repeatedly violate safety standards.
The FMCSA has issued numerous reports about the safety threat posed by trucking companies that do not perform routine safety inspections, or make repairs to faulty equipment.
These risks were evident in a May 2015 incident in which a commercial truck owned by Prudential Carriers Inc., leaked a load of canola oil onto I-75 in Georgia.
The driver of the truck did not pull the vehicle over, and as a result, the slick and hazardous conditions created by the leaking oil caused four accidents.
The driver was arrested, and an investigation by the FMCSA revealed “widespread regulatory violations demonstrating Prudential’s repeated and egregious non-compliance with federal safety regulations, and a management philosophy indifferent to motor carrier safety.”
Part of those violations included Prudential’s failure to inspect, repair and maintain its fleet of trucks, failure to ensure that the company’s employees adhered to the federal hours-of-service regulations governing how many hours drivers could spend behind the wheel, and failure to comply with random alcohol and drug testing.
In June, the FMCSA issued a federal out-of-service order, which immediately barred Prudential from operating any of its commercial vehicles.
Although out-of-service orders do not always mean that a truck company can’t regain its right to resume operation, in many cases, these carriers do not have the resources to make the necessary changes to comply with federal standards.
However, that doesn’t mean that truck company owners who have been shut down, can’t find other means to resume working in the industry.
“A federal out-of-service order is effective at shutting down a non-compliant truck carrier,” Witherite stated, “but it doesn’t prevent that owner from registering a new trucking company under a different name and a different commercial license. So there are no safeguards to keep owners who have proven to be irresponsible in terms of their safety standards, from starting another trucking company that will likely have the same issues.”
The only way to prevent this gap in information is to create a federal database that includes the photos of all trucking company owners whose companies have been shut down.
That would make it easier for federal regulators to identify repeat offenders who try to obtain commercial trucking licenses under different names.
But the other issue is that there are a number of independent truck carriers who bypass operating licenses altogether, and run their businesses without any jurisdiction.
“Commercial trucks provide many useful and necessary services,” Witherite added. “But the fly-by-night companies that are just in it to turn over profits as quickly as possible, tend not to operate with any regard toward public safety. And it’s only after a major truck accident that results in many fatalities, that the issue is brought to light.”