“Chameleon Carriers” Create Higher Risk of Truck Crashes

 In Commercial Trucking Accidents

Drivers of passenger cars and large trucks alike are being put at risk for a deadly trucking accident thanks to trucking companies that change their names to dodge inspections and avoid being held accountable for safety and maintenance violations. 

By changing their names and DOT numbers, trucking companies that refuse to follow critical safety regulations attempt to stay under the radar and keep their business operating — even if they pose a serious danger to others on the road. These unethical companies have been dubbed “chameleon carriers,” “reincarnated carriers,” and even “zombies” by trucking safety advocates. 

Chameleon Carriers Are a Major Safety Hazard  

Chameleon carriers often have fleets of trucks that are mechanically and structurally unsound, and they also tend to attract truckers with unsafe driving records. These two factors make for a dangerous combination on the road, and these companies’ ability to dodge inspectors and authorities makes it extremely difficult to hold these companies accountable for crashes, injuries, and fatalities. 

In one study, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered that approximately 18 percent of chameleon carriers were involved in severe accidents — a rate three times higher than the rate of crashes for trucking companies who comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. 

And there are already an alarming and unacceptable number of dangerous trucks on the road. In 2016, Ohio inspectors discovered that one in five trucks in Ohio alone were considered too dangerous to drive, which resulted in 18,000, out of 87,000 trucks being ordered off the road. More recently, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA’s) Brake Safety Day event reported similar alarming results. 

In 2012, the GAO found that over 700 people suffer injuries and more than 40 people die each year in crashes involving trucks owned by chameleon carriers. Some cases have been difficult to bring to justice due to these companies’ ability to disappear and then reappear as another trucking entity to continue with business as usual. In some cases, these companies can even shut down and reopen in a matter of days. 

For example, in 2011, four people died and dozens more were injured after a crash that involved a tour bus owned by a company that had frequently committed safety violations. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulators shut the company down, but it opened its doors again days later as a new touring bus company. 

Luckily, the FMCSA caught this fraud and shuttered the new company right away. However, the FMCSA receives nearly 70,000 new applications every year, and the vast majority of them (approximately 98%) are not cross-checked against a list of known chameleon carriers, which means some of these unscrupulous and dangerous companies are continuing their shell game — and going on to cause more crashes. 

Cracking Down on Chameleon Carrier Trucking Companies 

While chameleon carriers can be difficult to find, FMCSA regulators are working hard to prevent unsafe companies from changing their names to skirt safety regulations. The FMCSA is also flagging new trucking companies for investigation when they show similarities in name or ownership to previously suspect companies. This investigative process is time consuming and costly, but it is necessary to help keep our roadways safe. 

RELATED: Truck Driver Fatigue And Employer Coercion: A Deadly Pairing

Unfortunately, however, the FMCSA at present simply doesn’t have the staffing and resources to catch every chameleon carrier, which means that some of these dangerous freight and tourism companies are still slipping through the cracks and getting their unsafe trucks and drivers back on the road. 

Contact Truck Wreck Justice If You’ve Been Hurt in a Trucking Accident 

Even the safest drivers can become victims when unsafe trucks and negligent drivers are allowed to stay on the road. If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash involving a large truck or bus, Truck Wreck Justice Attorney Morgan Adams is here to help. With years of experience and a sole focus on large vehicle cases, Mr. Adams is a powerful advocate for trucking accident victims and an experienced litigator who won’t hesitate to fight for your rights in court.  

Please contact Truck Wreck Justice at (432) 265-2020 or fill out our online contact form if you need legal representation or assistance. We offer free consultations to help you gain a better understanding of your legal options, and we handle cases on a contingent fee basis, which means that you’ll only pay fees or case expenses if we successfully settle or win your case in court. 


Browder, C. (2012, October 29). ‘Chameleon’ truckers creating dangerous driving conditions. WRAL News. Retrieved from http://www.wral.com/-chameleon-truckers-creating-dangerous-driving-conditions/11713871/  

Motor carrier safety: New applicant reviews should expand to identify freight carriers evading detection [GAO-12-364, report to congressional committees]. (2012, March). United States Government Accountability Office. Retrieved from http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/589530.pdf

Tips for driving safely around large trucks or buses. (2017, July 19). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/ourroads/tips-driving-safely-around-large-trucks-or-buses 

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject. 

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