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GAO: FMCSA needs to kick vetting process up a notch to find chameleon carriers

GAO found that 18 percent of the applicants with chameleon attributes were involved in severe crashes compared with 6 percent of new applicants without chameleon attributes. (The Trucker file photo)

The Trucker Staff

3/27/2012

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s vetting and new entrant safety programs are “not well designed to identify suspected chameleon carriers,” says a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, adding that the agency needs to kick its investigative process up a notch using a “data-driven approach.”

The GAO noted that FMCSA’s attempts to find chameleon carriers among new applicants is limited to  bus companies and household goods movers but that the agency “does not determine whether all other new applicants, including freight carriers, may be attempting to assume a new identity.”

While allowing that FMCSA does not have the staff to investigate “each of the tens of thousands of new applicants,” it said the agency can make better use of the data it has.

Specifically, GAO said analysis of registration data could be used to assess risk by targeting all new applicant carriers with attributes similar to chameleon carriers such as company registration data that matches data for another carrier with a history of safety violations.”

Using this new methodology FMCSA should expand its vetting program “as soon as possible” to examine all motor carriers with chameleon attributes, including freight carriers, the GAO recommended.

In its report, the GAO said it found an increasing number of carriers with “chameleon attributes,” from 759 in 2005 to 1,136 in 2010. It also found that 18 percent of the applicants with chameleon attributes were involved in severe crashes compared with 6 percent of new applicants without chameleon attributes.

FMCSA should “expand the vetting program using a data-driven approach; and provide guidance to improve the new entrant program,” GAO suggested, adding that FMCSA “generally concurred” with its recommendations.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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