Safety regulators want to impose the ultimate penalty, loss of registration, on truck and bus operations that show egregious disregard for the rules.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says that every year a small number of carriers try to avoid compliance or disguise non-compliance. These carriers often submit new applications under a different name after they have been placed out of service, the agency said.

In a proposed rule posted this week, the agency said it needs to take strong action to deter this kind of behavior.

With the legal authority it gained in this year's highway law, the agency proposes to suspend or revoke the operating authority of carriers that disregard the rules. The rule also targets carrier officers or employers who either disregard the rules or permit others to do so.

Under the proposal, the status of officer could be based on title, position or functional control over operations. It could include contractors and consultants, as well as employees.

The proposal targets failure to comply with safety rules, as well as concealment of that failure. It also goes after those who do not comply with orders to fix safety problems, who do not pay fines for safety violations, or who do not respond to enforcement actions.

The agency's assessment would be based on the frequency of these violations, the level of risk and the effect of the violations on safety performance. Officials who knew or should have known about the violations would be held responsible.

Inadvertent or sporadic violations would not be targeted.

The agency is proposing a list of a dozen criteria for determining the ownership status of the carrier. Among them: If the new carrier was created in order to avoid compliance, and if the new and old companies have equipment, facilities, insurance or customers in common.

The proposal would give targeted carriers 30 days to respond to a suspension notice. If the carrier does not respond, the order would take effect on the 35th day.

FMCSA is looking for comments on the proposal by Jan. 14.