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Alabama Trucking Accidents — FMCSA Seeks Carrier Shutdown Authority

Dec 6, 2012 - Truck Accidents by

Last month, our Birmingham truck accident lawyers discussed proposed changes to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules. The changes will give FMCSA broader authority to suspend or revoke the operating licenses of motor carriers if they show egregious disregard for compliance with safety rules or if they close up shop when placed out of service for safety violations, only to open under a new name.

Our truck accident attorneys in Birmingham are wholly in support of efforts to make it easier for FMCSA to stop motor carriers from engaging in unsafe practices that could hurt innocent victims. Today, we want to take a closer look at some of the reasons why the new rule is necessary to give FMCSA the authority it needs. 979783_bright_orange_truck_1

The Implications of Proposed Changes
In December of 2010, the Service Center Director for the Midwestern Service Center published a report entitled “Patterns of Safety Violations by Motor Carrier Management Practical Implications on Investigations and Enforcement.”

According to the report, there are a number of challenges faced by FMCSA in disciplining or shutting down motor carriers that repeatedly violate safety laws. Some of the challenges faced by FMCSA as outlined in the report include:

  • Difficulty determining exactly which regulatory violations were “serious” and which were merely recordkeeping violations or violations of “form and matter.”
  • Difficulty connecting continuous failure to comply with safety regulations to one specific person or persons.
  • The fact that violations or citations of officials historically do not carry over to new corporate entities that are formed by motor carriers.
  • Unanswered questions regarding whether a “reincarnated” company (a company started under a new name) should be held liable for wrongdoing done by its predecessor and thus subject to FMCSA orders and outstanding penalties.
  • Difficulty tracking officers who go on to form new entities.

These challenges help to illustrate why FMCSA needs more regulatory authority to help discourage repeat safety violations and to stop companies from closing and reopening under a new name when put out of service.

The report supports the idea that that FMCSA needs a greater ability to track officials with a history of non-compliance and that FMCSA also needs the ability to impose harsher penalties or even suspend or bar an individual from operating due to non-compliance. The proposed changes to FMCSA rules would help to solve some of these challenges by giving FMCSA more power and outlining a new framework for punishing egregious or repeat offenders.

Protecting the Public From Dangerous Accidents
When a company commits safety violations, is put out of service and then begins to operate under a new name, this is a clear indicator of a willful failure to correct safety problems and of an intentional refusal to operate within the bounds of the law. A company or entity that willfully chooses to behave unsafely puts the public at great risk. Unfortunately, individuals may be harmed by trucking accidents or accidents of motor carriers that are likely to occur when basic safety rules are disregarded.

The new FMCSA rule change, if it goes into effect, will hopefully help to make it easier for FMCSA to overcome challenges in stopping repeat safety violators. Only if there are sufficient sanctions will a dishonest person or entity be deterred from operating a motor carrier or trucking company while committing dangerous violations of safety rules.

And that will make everyone on the road that much safer.

Additional Resources:

Repeat Safety Violations Target of Trucking Enforcement Efforts, Cross & Smith LLC, November 21, 2012

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