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“Chameleon” trucking companies responsible for many injuries and deaths

A trucking company from Wake Forest, NC called Elite Freight Systems went out of business in 2009 because it was experiencing problems on the road. It soon came back as Elite Freight Systems, Incorporated and received a brand new company driving number from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

After poorly performing for several more years, the company's owner decided to change the name again, this time to Spurlin Trucking. But after some investigating, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration decided to take action.

Today, studies are showing that these trucking companies that frequently change names, known as "chameleons," are much more likely to be involved in serious accidents. In one recent five year stretch, truck accidents caused by "chameleon" trucking companies were responsible for at least 217 deaths and 3500 injuries.

Elite Freight Systems was part of that problem. In September 2012, two truckers from Elite were killed on a Kentucky highway when their truck blew a tire and ran off the road. In 2014, another rig linked to Elite almost ran a vehicle off the road along I-40 in Greensboro, NC. A witness on the road took pictures of the incident. According to a lawsuit, one woman involved in near-accident was so scared that she was never able to get back into a vehicle again.

The report says that the truck looked as though it was an experiencing systematic failures and that it was not just some random near-accident. The company was known to have one of the worst safety records in the state of North Carolina. One NC State Trooper who was interviewed said that Elite trucks always had "a lot of red flags" when he would pull one of them over.

In 2013, the company's third moniker, Spurlin Trucking, reported only two drivers and one truck with an interim DOT registration. That same year, records showed Elite Freight Systems, Inc. had seventy-four drivers and twenty trucks. In January 2014, Spurlin finally got its official DoT number, but then received a warning from the DoT for unsafe driving no more than six months later. A year after that, almost all of Elite's assets had been transferred to Spurlin which, by that time, said it had fifty driver and thirty trucks. That's when the DoT realized Elite / Spurlin was a "chameleon carrier." Essentially, Elite was reincarnating himself in an effort to avoid fines and scrupulous inspections.

This past August, the federal DoT received a complaint from a person who accused Elite / Spurlin of disregarding DoT regulations and having its drivers begin their shifts after dark so that they could avoid the proper pre-route inspections. In October, inspectors paid a visit to Elite's headquarters and found several issues, including falsified log books, the use of uninspected trucks, and ticket receipts for things like following too closely and speeding. Eventually, inspectors realized that Elite and Spurlin were one in the same and the companies were forced to merge strictly into Spurlin. Elite's checkered past was also transferred to Spurlin's DoT record.

Further investigation showed that Spurlin's troubles were more than just truck safety issues after the NC Industrial Commission found that the company did not possess workers' compensation insurance when its two employees were killed in 2012. The company was ordered to pay close to $500,000 for lost wages and funeral expenses to the drivers' families.

Poor practices for trucking companies like this are not abnormal. It happens every day, all over the U.S., and here in Pennsylvania. If you were hurt in an accident by a truck driver who is employed by one of these chameleon companies, chances are that their assets stretch much further than they are letting on. And it take experienced attorneys like those at Dallas W. Hartman, P.C. to investigate these types of claims and fight insurance companies who cover these businesses. If you have questions about truck accident, please call Dallas W. Hartman, P.C. today for a free preliminary consultation at 800-777-4081.

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