Chameleon carriers are trucking companies that shut down to hide from penalties after multiple safety violations or crashes—and then re-open under a new name.

For more, see Chasing the Chameleon.

CNBC Investigations: Wiping clean the safety records of trucking companies

CNBC Investigations: Wiping clean the safety records of trucking companies

These carriers run some of the most dangerous trucks on the road: 18% of suspected chameleon carriers were in serious truck crashes, according to the GAO.

That’s three times as many crashes as other carriers.

How does this happen?

In the CNBC report, Anne Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said that only about 2% of all new DOT applicants are checked to see if they’re chameleon carriers.

That’s pretty inspiring for trucking companies looking to avoid safety regulations and fines.

Closing the loophole

The FMCSA is updating the vetting methods to spot chameleon carriers when they apply for a new DOT number.

The new plan to catch chameleon carriers is based on an application algorithm. When a new trucking company applies for a DOT number, their address, phone number, and listed officers will be automatically checked against closed carriers who have been:

–       Issued multiple fines;

–       Involved in fatal crashes;

–       Declared bankruptcy;

–       Or declared unsafe by FMCSA.

This process is in beta testing now and scheduled to go into effect in 2015.

Even if it is not fully effective at catching chameleon carriers, it’s better than our current systems: waiting until they cause fatal crashes.