FMCSA's enforcement goes high tech; high time you do, too

By Jami Jones, senior editor

The days of thinking you can leave the Internet to kids for playing games and keeping in touch with their friends have come to a close.

For whatever reason, you may have resisted joining the "tech age" and conducting more of your business from a computer.

But now that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has moved to a new form of automated enforcement, continuing to stay in the dark ages could land you in enforcement trouble.

With little fanfare, FMCSA's new motor carrier enforcement program – Comprehensive, Safety, Accountability – went live to the public in early December 2010.

The agency has begun enforcement on motor carriers that don't measure up in any of the seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories, or BASICs.

The seven categories include:

  • Unsafe driving (Parts 392 and 397);
  • Fatigued driving (Parts 392 and 395);
  • Driver fitness (Parts 383 and 391);
  • Controlled substances/alcohol
    (Parts 382 and 392);
  • Vehicle maintenance (Parts 393 and 396);
  • Cargo related (Parts 392, 393, 397
    and hazmat); and
  • Crash indicator.

After all of the data on violations and citations noted on inspections and crash reports are entered, chewed up and spit out of the CSA Safety Management System, motor carriers will be rated in all of the BASIC compliance areas. The higher the ranking percentile, the more noncompliant the motor carrier. These rankings will be updated on a continual basis.

Motor carriers who fail to meet a minimum compliance rating face "intervention" from the agency. The interventions can range from a warning letter to a full-blown compliance review or even the motor carrier being put out of service, and basically out of business.

Individual drivers only face enforcement from the agency if the motor carrier they work for or are leased to is going through a compliance review. If the agency finds individual drivers with particularly bad compliance records, those drivers could be fined by the agency.
Accessing this information can be beneficial in a number of ways.

First and foremost, if you operate your own company, you could see how your compliance record stacks up and see if you need to make operational changes – before interventions begin.

Individual drivers will be able to get a good idea what kind of company they are working for, or are thinking about leasing to or going to work for. For example, if a motor carrier has tons of HOS violations and a high BASIC safety ranking in the fatigued category, you get a good idea of how much pressure the company places on drivers to violate the regs.

The public can view a motor carrier's performance in all but a couple of the BASIC categories: cargo and crash indicator.

Checking out the information is relatively simple. Motor carriers and the public alike can visit
http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/SMS to view the CSA safety rankings on motor carriers.

The public can search for motor carriers with the company's DOT or Motor Carrier numbers. You can also search by name, and it is best to include the motor carrier's home state in the search.

The public can drill down and see individual inspections. However, personal data on the individual drivers is blocked from public view.

Motor carriers can log in to see the full CSA profile and all of the related inspection and crash data. A motor carrier will be able to sift through all inspections, sort by driver, etc., once logged in to its individual motor carrier account.

Data and safety rankings are updated on a monthly basis.LL

Editor's note: Longtime truckers Chris and Christina VanMeerhaeghe are OOIDA members and up until recently drove team running all 48 states. Now Chris drives local and Christina works in dispatch