A report in Monday’s Baltimore Sun exposes how easy it is for some motor carriers with a long history of safety violations and crashes to reincarnate under a new name and business license after authorities shut them down. These are the companies that repeatedly demonstrate a blaring disregard for the law, take advantage of regulatory loopholes, and give the trucking industry an undeservedly bad reputation.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) deemed Gunthers Transport LLC of Hanover, Maryland, an “imminent hazard” to the public and ordered it off the road. The company, which owned 17 trucks and employed 23 drivers, had a long and troubled history of safety violations and failed inspections, including “at least seven serious crashes in the past year, one of which resulted in a fatality,” according to the Sun.
Additionally, Gunthers Transport and Gunthers Leasing Transport Inc., both owned by Mark David Gunther Sr., “have been involved in a string of legal problems and safety infractions, including falsifying driver logs to mask driver shifts that exceeded federal limits, a civil court judgment stemming from a 1994 crash on the Capitol Beltway that left one person dead, and bankruptcy,” the Sun explains.
Because of its shoddy safety record, FMCSA officials tried to bar Gunthers Transport from operating under a new name. However, Mark Gunther Sr.’s 25-year-old son Mark David Gunther Jr. filed incorporation papers for a new company named Clock Transport LLC, using the same address, before the federal order took effect. What used to be Gunthers Transport LLC is now pared-down operation of six trucks and 15 drivers that is still on the same reckless road it was before the name change.
About a month ago, a tractor trailer belonging to Clock stopped at a weigh station in Cambridge, Ohio. According to the Baltimore Sun, “After a 90-minute inspection, the truck was found to have an inoperative headlight, a defective brake light and worn tires, according to a report filed with the Ohio Public Utilities Commission. The trucker was cited for driving beyond the federal limit of 11 hours. Both truck and driver immediately were ordered off the road.”
The driver of that vehicle told the Baltimore Sun that he was confused by Hours of Service rules and that Clock Transport was not pushing him to drive beyond the legal limits. Interestingly, transportation analysts have found that commercial drivers with poor safety records are more apt to work for carriers with a history of safety violations and less liable to report or complain about being pushed to drive over the federal limits.
Captain Norman Dofflemyer, commander of the Maryland State Police Commercial Vehicle Division, told the Baltimore Sun that Clock Transport is driving legally, so they “aren’t even trying to hide it that they are what authorities call ‘chameleon truckers,’ companies that are shut down but reopen under another name.”
Luckily for motorists sharing the roads with these negligent carriers, there is no rule limiting the number of times law enforcement authorities can inspect commercial vehicles, especially when they’re known violators running under a new name.
“If we see their vehicles, they’re going to get inspected,” Capt. Dofflemyer told the Baltimore Sun. “If we see them a couple minutes later, they’re going to be inspected again.”