OLATHE, Kan. - The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says an Olathe trucking company at the center of a 41 Action News investigation on chameleon carriers will not be allowed back on the road.
The agency denied Freight, Inc. owner Binder Singh's appeal of their "cease operations" order that was issued in January.
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Singh's company was the focus of a 41 Action News investigation into "chameleon carriers." That is the term the trucking industry uses to describe companies that rack up safety violations, then shut down and reopen under new names and new Department of Transportation numbers. Chameleon carriers employ the strategy to avoid action by federal safety regulators.
The 41 Action News investigators uncovered safety regulators had given Freight, Inc a poor safety rating. The investigators also uncovered the Missouri Highway Patrol had stopped and issued citations to Singh's trucks seven times in 2012. On three separate occasions, troopers cited trucks owned by Singh for having breaks that were not operating correctly.
In 2008, the FMCSA had issued Singh an order to cease operations due to safety violations. However, Singh had found a way around the system.
Each time violations started stacking up against his company, documents show Singh opened a new company under a different family member's name and applied for a new DOT number. In all, four companies were linked to Singh.
All of the companies had one thing in common: Singh's home address in Olathe.
FMCSA reviewed our findings and issued a "cease operations" order against Singh.
Singh appealed that order. In interviews with FMCSA, Singh told the agencies all four companies were owned by different people and not to "avoid compliance issues or hide anything."
FMCSA disagreed saying Singh did all of the hiring, firing and management of all of the companies in question. On Thursday, they once again ordered Singh to stop operating.
In a statement issued to 41 Action News on Thursday, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said: "Today's action is another step toward raising the bar for commercial and roadway safety. It sends a strong and important message that companies that attempt to evade safety regulations by reincarnating will be found and removed from the road."
The agency has been making an effort to identify and get chameleon carriers off the road following a report by the Government Accountability Office. It red-flagged more than a thousand companies auditors felt had "chameleon" attributes like similar officer names, addresses and phone numbers.
The report also found companies with those characteristics were three times more likely to be involved in a severe accident.
The 41 Action News investigators contacted Singh about the decision. He told us he has no comment.
You can read the entire FMCSA report on Singh's companies here: http://1.usa.gov/ZRAZDE