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How It Works

How DOT Compliance Works

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration controls regulations for motor carriers, throughout the United States, in an effort to improve the safety of commercial motor vehicles. Knowledge of these regulations and how the system works is key to operating a successful business within the industry.

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)
CSA is a program initiated by the FMCSA to improve large truck and bus safety. It introduces a model for evaluating and addressing a carriers safety issues, with guidelines for enforcement and compliance. CSA relies on the new Safety Management System (SMS), which was developed to more accurately identify unsafe carriers using the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) to measure performance.

Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs)
Motor carrier information collected from roadside inspections, including all safety-based violations, State-reported crashes, and the Federal motor carrier census are used to gauge a carriers safety performance based on the BASICs, which are:

    Unsafe Driving - Operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) by drivers in a dangerous or careless manner. Example violations: Speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, and inattention.

    Hours-of-Service (HOS) - Operation of CMVs by drivers who are ill, fatigued, or in non-compliance with the HOS regulations. This BASIC includes violations of regulations pertaining to records of duty status (RODS) as they relate to HOS requirements and the management of CMV driver fatigue Example violations: HOS RODS, and operating a CMV while ill or fatigued.

    Driver Fitness - Operation of CMVs by drivers who are unfit to operate a CMV due to lack of training, experience, or medical qualifications. Example violations: Failure to have a valid and appropriate commercial driver’s license (CDL) and being medically unqualified to operate a CMV.

    Controlled Substances/Alcohol - Operation of CMVs by drivers who are impaired due to alcohol, illegal drugs, and misuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications. Example violations: Use or possession of controlled substances/alcohol.

    Vehicle Maintenance - Failure to properly maintain a CMV and/or properly prevent shifting loads. Example violations: Brakes, lights, and other mechanical defects, failure to make required repairs, and improper load securement.

    Hazardous Materials (HM) - Unsafe handling of HM on a CMV. Example violations: Release of HM from package, no shipping papers (carrier), and no placards/markings when required.

    Crash Indicator - Histories or patterns of high crash involvement, including frequency and severity. It is based on information from State-reported crashes.

A carrier’s measurement for each category depends on how many incidents have occurred within that category, the severity of the incident, and the amount of time since the incident took place.

After being measured, a carrier is placed within a percentile ranking between 0 and 100 that reflects their performance compared to other carriers with similar performance. Being in the 100th percentile indicates the worst performance.

Using the SMS, the FMCSA is able to more efficiently evaluate a carrier’s degree of safety. This allows more accurate identification of carriers who require some form of intervention, or even determine which carriers should be established as ‘unfit to operate.’

Unsatisfactory safety performance or failure to comply with the FMCSA’s safety regulations will lead to intervention. Early stages of can result in a warning letter, while later stages and continued failed compliance can result in an order requiring a carrier to terminate all motor vehicle operations. Here are a list of the interventions:

    Early Contact
    - Warning Letter
    - Carrier Access to Safety Data and Measurement
    - Targeted Roadside Inspection

    - Offsite Investigation
    - Onsite Focused Investigation
    - Onsite Comprehensive Investigation

    - Cooperative Safety Plan (CSP)
    - Notice of Violation (NOV)
    - Notice of Claim (NOC)
    - Operations Out-of-Service Order (OOS)
    Click here to view the comprehensive descriptions…

For More Information About These Topics
U.S. Department of Transportation
DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
CSA – Compliance, Safety, Accountability