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As a former DOT Auditor, I can attest to the fact that being selected for a Compliance Review (C.R.) is not always the most pleasant of experiences for a motor carrier. That being said a C.R. of a motor carrier’s safety program records could be relatively issue free if the motor carrier’s management team and staff understand the regulations that they are subject to, and what records an Auditor will expects to review during the C.R.

Regardless of the industry, any employer, employee, or vehicle involved in the transportation of property or passengers in interstate commerce in the U.S., with a vehicle of gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or combination weight rating (GCWR) of more than 10,000 lbs., is subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). This includes being subject to a C.R. by a DOT Auditor.

The purpose of a C.R. is to evaluate a motor carrier's safety performance, and to confirm that proper and complete records are up to date. The C.R. will also determine if the motor carrier has adequate safety management controls in place to ensure compliance with U.S. CFR Part 49. As a brief review, the points covered are not necessarily all-inclusive. The motor carrier is responsible to know, and to comply with all FMCSA regulatory and record-keeping requirements. A C.R. is divided in 6 inspection categories called factors:

  1. General

  2. Driver

  3. Operational

  4. Vehicle

  5. Hazardous Materials

  6. Accidents

Each factor is subsequently reviewed and a given a public rating either Satisfactory, Conditional, or Unsatisfactory.

A ‘Satisfactory’ rating is defined as a motor carrier having in place a functioning adequate safety management controls to meet the safety fitness standard prescribed in the FMCSRs, Section 385.5. Safety management controls are adequate if they are appropriate for the size and type of operation of the particular motor carrier. Having a ‘Satisfactory’ label does not mean that a motor carrier can relax its compliance efforts. Satisfactory simply means a motor carrier is doing the minimum an Auditor expects of a carrier's safety program in a specific factor.

A ‘Conditional’ rating is defined a motor carrier not having adequate safety management controls in place to ensure compliance with the safety fitness standard that could result in occurrences listed in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

An ‘Unsatisfactory’ rating is defined as a motor carrier not having adequate safety management controls in place to ensure compliance with the safety fitness standard. Motor carriers receiving an ‘Unsatisfactory’ safety rating may be subject to remedial enforcement measures by FMCSA.  

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1. General Requirements

A carrier should be prepared to show documentation to an Auditor that demonstrates that it has proper liability coverage in place for the type of carrier and cargo. Section 387.9 of the FMCSR contains a schedule of limits. Motor carriers should be able to surrender upon request of an Auditor, the CS-90 or MCS-82 form (382.15). An insurance provider representative must also sign this form. Vehicle markings may also be checked during a C.R. A CMV must be marked on two sides with the motor carrier's legal or single-trade name (whichever appears on the MCS-150 form) and the DOT-assigned number proceeded by the letters "USDOT" (390.21). Another key part of general requirements review are training records. The Auditor will confirm that the motor carrier trains not only drivers, but also any employee who may be involved in regulatory compliance, on the applicable regulations. To demonstrate an adequate level of management control, it is recommended that a motor carrier keep detailed records of any transportation safety-related training provided to their employees.  

 

2. Driver Qualifications

A driver qualifications review covers commercial driver's licenses (CDL), driver qualification, and drug and alcohol testing. The Auditor will confirm that the motor carriers operating CDL-required CMV demonstrates that all their drivers have valid licenses equivalent to the vehicle class and with the appropriate endorsements required. A motor carrier should have in place a means for tracking license expiration dates. A motor carrier operating CDL-required equipment also must have implemented a drug and alcohol-testing program as described in Parts 40 & 382 of the regulations.

An Auditor will also verify that a motor carrier's CDL driver testing program is separate from any other motor carrier-required testing. Section 382.601 requires that a motor carrier have a written policy covering the testing program. The policy will be reviewed by the Auditor to ensure it contains all of the required content listed in that section. The policy must be distributed to CDL drivers, and a signed receipt from each driver must be on file and available for inspection upon request. The Auditor will also verify that a motor carrier has made a good faith effort to obtain from previous employers three years' worth of Part 382 testing results. The Auditor will also confirm that all of the required tests are in place for all CDL drivers who may operate a CDL-required vehicle including:

  • Pre-Employment Drug Test (382.301)
  • Post-Accident Drug & Alcohol (382.303)
  • Random Drug & Alcohol (382.305)
  • Reasonable Suspicion (382.307)

The Auditor will review records to determine that testing complied with regulations, that tests were recorded on federal custody and control forms, and training for supervisors on ‘Reasonable Suspicion’ testing was completed. If a motor carrier chooses not to terminate an employee for testing positive for drug use, records must document the substance abuse professional evaluation, completion of rehab (if required), and Part 40 Return to Duty (40.305) and FollowUp (40.307) testing. For motor carriers who employ a third-party administrator (TPA) to manage the testing program, the Auditor may also elect to review the semi-annual or annual statistical summary reports. The driver qualification file is a significant point in in this component of the safety review. Motor carriers are required to use only qualified CMV operators. The documentation required in a driver file includes:

  • Driver application with all required information listed in Section 391.21.
  • Previous three years of employment verification and, if applicable, a safety performance history, and drug/alcohol test results (391.23).
  • Motor vehicle record (MVR) check for previous three years (391.23)
  • Road test and certification (391.31)
  • Three years of DOT physical certifications (391.43)
  • Entry-level driver training, if required (380.503).
  • Three years of annual MVRs from state(s) in three years' worth (391.25)
  • Annual written driver statement of violations, which the driver is licensed (391.25).
  • Three years of signed annual reviews from the motor carrier (391.25)
  • Any waivers granted (391.49).

Driver files should be complete, current, and correct and contain the same information in the same order. Further, although placing the actual driver DOT physical examination form in the driver file is not required, it must be readily available upon request during a C.R. Only those items listed previously are required in the file. Other records or documents the motor carrier may feel are necessary for managing the fleet may be placed elsewhere at the motor carrier’s principal place of business.  

 

3. Operational

Regulations covered in Part 395, Hours of Service of the FMCSR are the largest operational components reviewed by an Auditor. Any business operating a CMV is subject to driving limitations and hours of service record-keeping. Unless the motor carrier is using an exception, the Auditor will expect six months of driver logs and supporting documents be made available during the C.R. A motor carrier is expected to maintain a file (electronic or paper) for each regulated driver. When drivers are required to complete the standard graph log, the Auditor will examine these logs for violations of:

  • Form & Manner (395.8(d)).
  • Hours of Service (395.3).
  • Falsification of Logs.

Form and manner is simply the information, in addition to the graph, required on a driver's log. Hours of service violations occur when a driver exceeds the 11-hour, 14-hour, and 60-hours in seven days or 70-hours in eight days rules. Falsification is checked using supporting documents to identify when a driver intentionally misrepresents information on a log. The driver must return legible logs to the motor carrier within 13 days of completion. A motor carrier must also have a procedure to account for on-duty hours resulting from a driver performing compensated work for any person (including him/herself) outside their employment with that motor carrier (395.2(9)). A motor carrier operating CMVs and using a logging exception, especially the 100-Air Mile Exception (395.1), may believe the operation is exempt from all Part 395 requirements because the drivers are not required to complete graph logs. However, even when using exemptions, the motor carrier must comply with record-keeping requirements. The 100-Air Mile exception mandates motor carrier compliance with four driver requirements before driver use of the logging exception is permitted:

  • Stay within 100 air miles of his/her normal work reporting location.
  • Return to the work reporting location and be relieved of duty within 12 consecutive hours.
  • Refrain from driving a CMV for more than 11 hours in that 12-hour period.
  • Take 10 consecutive hours off duty between shifts.

If these requirements are fulfilled, the motor carrier must keep clear and accurate hours of service records (including supporting documents) for six months of the driver's daily start and stop times, total on-duty hours, and the 60- or 70-hour rule tracking.  

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4. Vehicle Requirements

The inspection and maintenance issues reviewed are found in Part 396 of the FMCSA. The Auditor will expect the motor carrier to demonstrate any CMV under its control for 30 consecutive days or more is included in a program of systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance. The Auditor will expect the motor carrier to demonstrate that any CMV under its control for 30 consecutive days or more is included in a program of systematic inspection, repair, and maintenance. Each vehicle subject to Part 396 must have a vehicle maintenance file. In addition to containing records of all repairs, inspections, or maintenance performed on that vehicle, the file should clearly detail the following:

  • Motor carrier number (or license plate number)
  • Model and year
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN) or serial number
  • Tire size
  • Owner (if not the motor carrier)

Except for annual inspections, maintenance records are required to be kept in the file for 12 months before the information can be purged. Proof of periodic inspection must also be stored in the vehicle in the form of a copy of current inspections or, in some states, an approved sticker with inspection information clearly legible.

The Auditor will verify that certified inspectors are performing the annual, periodic inspections. Certification is also required for anyone performing CMV brake system work, and may be requested during the C.R. The motor carrier should maintain records of roadside inspections for at least one year. The Auditor will examine inspection forms to determine if the motor carrier has performed required repairs discovered on a vehicle during a roadside inspection and that a signed inspection form was returned to the issuing agency within 15 days of the repair completion. An issue of note is the requirement a motor carrier maintain for 90 days the post-trip inspection reports completed by drivers at the end of each workday. This report must be in writing and completed by the driver.

The report must indicate:

  • That vehicle was in fact inspected.
  • Date of inspection.
  • Confirm what components were inspected.
  • Any deficiencies present on the vehicle.
  • Signature of inspecting driver.

For inspections during which a defect is noted, the signature of the mechanic who corrected the defect, the signature of the next driver to conduct a pre-trip inspection, and the individual who accepted the vehicle back into service must also be detailed in the report.  

 

5. Hazardous Materials

Motor carriers transporting hazardous materials must have appropriate documentation. Shippers of hazardous materials must provide carriers with shipping papers and emergency response information, which provide useful information in the case of an incident. A shipping paper includes a record of what is being transported and provides first responders with necessary information for emergency response. HM shipping papers must be within the driver’s reach with the seat belt on and visible to first responders entering the vehicle. Motor carriers must retain HM shipping papers for one year after acceptance of the shipment, or three years for hazardous wastes. Information on the shipping papers must include:

  • The identification number, identified in the Hazardous Materials Table
  • The proper shipping name, identified in the Hazardous Materials Table
  • The hazard class
  • The packing group, identified in Roman numerals, when required
  • The total quantity of hazardous materials
  • The number and type of packages holding the hazardous contents
  • Any additional description requirements per 49 CFR Section 172.203.
 

 

6. Accidents

During the general requirements component of the C.R., the Auditor will also request to see a motor carrier's accident register. This document must list all accidents that meet the definition of an "accident" as found in Section 390.5 of the FMCSR. Such accidents are commonly referred to as being "DOT recordable accidents." The review determines if a motor carrier maintains an accurate record of these accidents. The record must contain the information required by Section 390.15, which includes:

  • Accident date.
  • Location (city and state).
  • Driver's name.
  • Number of injuries.
  • Number of fatalities.
  • The presence of hazardous materials, other than fuel spilled by any vehicle.

Even if a motor carrier has had no DOT recordable accidents, they are required to have the accident register in place for review. If an accident entry appears on the register, it must remain for three years from the date of the accident.  

 

7. Findings

Once the C.R. is completed, the Auditor will complete his/her report, the findings will be shared with the motor carrier including any enforcement action that may be initiated against the motor carrier.  

 

8. DOT Glossary of Terms

Active Carriers

Interstate motor carriers and HM intrastate motor carriers with an active U.S. DOT number.

Compliance Reviews (CRs)

On-site examinations of motor carrier operations, such as drivers' hours of service, maintenance and inspection, driver qualification, commercial driver’s license requirements, financial responsibility, crashes, hazardous materials, and other safety and transportation records to determine whether a motor carrier meets the safety fitness standard. A compliance review may be conducted in response to a request to change a safety rating, to investigate potential violations of safety regulations by motor carriers, or to investigate complaints or other evidence of safety violations. The compliance review may result in the initiation of an enforcement action.

Conditional

A safety rating received because of a Compliance Review. A Conditional rating is defined as: a motor carrier does not have adequate safety management controls in place to ensure compliance with the safety fitness standard that could result in occurrences listed in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Rules and Notices (FMCSRs) Section 385.5 (a) through (k).

Crash Accuracy Measure

This measure determines a rating based on the percentage of crash records reported by the State over a 12-month period that were matched to a company registered in MCMIS.

Crash Consistency (Overriding Indicator)

This "red flag" indicates States that have reported less than 50% of non-fatal crash records for the current 12-month period compared to the yearly average, based on the previous 36-months.

Crash Rating

This rating considers the five SSDQ crash measures and the Overriding Indicator, except measures with a rating of "Insufficient Data." States receive an overall score based on ratings in each of the crash measures and the Overriding Indicator. A State that has received a "red flag" will be automatically rated "Poor." A State with at least one "Good" measure and no measures considered "Poor" will receive a "Good" grade. A State with one measure considered "Poor" will receive a "Fair" grade; and any State with two or more "Poor" measures will receive a "Poor" grade.

Crash Record Completeness Measure

This measure determines a rating based on the completeness of driver and vehicle crash data reported to FMCSA.

Crash Timeliness Measure

This measure determines a rating based on the percentage of crash records reported to FMCSA within 90 days over a 12-month period.

Driver OOS Rate

The percentage of roadside inspections (Levels I, II, and III) that resulted in OOS orders.

Fatal Crash Completeness Measure

This measure determines a rating based on a comparison of the number of State-reported fatal crash records in MCMIS to the number of fatal crash records reported in FARS.

Fatal Crash

A crash where one or more persons dies within 30 days of the crash. The fatality does not have to occur at the scene of the crash. It includes any person involved in the crash, including pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as occupants of the passenger cars and trucks.

Fatality

One or more persons dies due to injuries resulting from a crash involving a large truck or bus within 30 days of the crash. It includes any person involved in the crash, including pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as occupants of passenger cars, trucks, and buses.

Fatality Rate

The fatality rate is equal to the "Number of fatalities involved in CMV fatal crashes" divided by the "Adjusted VMT for CMVs" multiplied by 100. Fatality rate figures represent CMV fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled.

Hazardous Material (HM)

HM is any substance or material which has been determined by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to be capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce and which has been so designated under regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Most vehicles carrying HM are required by law to conspicuously display a placard indicating the class, type, or the specific name of the HM cargo. In addition, vehicles transporting HM in tank cars, cargo tanks, or portable tanks are required to display the four-digit hazardous materials number assigned to the specific material on placards or orange panels.

HM OOS Rate

The percentage of roadside inspections (Levels I, II, and III when HM is present) that resulted in OOS orders.

Injury

One or more persons has non-fatal injuries requiring transportation by a vehicle for the purpose of obtaining immediate medical attention as the result of a crash that involved a large truck or bus.

Injury Crash

A crash where one or more persons has non-fatal injuries requiring transportation by a vehicle for the purpose of obtaining immediate medical attention.

Inspection Accuracy Measure

This measure determines a rating based on the percentage of inspection records reported by the States over a 12-month period that were matched to a company registered in MCMIS.

Inspection Levels

The North American Standard Truck Inspection procedures comprise six levels of inspections (A&I Online only reports on inspection Levels I-V.) For a comprehensive description of each level visit www.cvsa.org. (Review the FMCSA Regulations for detailed definitions of the regulations.)

Inspection Timeliness Measure

This measure determines a rating based on the percentage of inspection records reported to FMCSA within 21 days over a 12-month period.

Inspection (Roadside Inspections, (RIs))

An inspection occurs when a Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) inspector conducts an examination on individual CMV’s and drivers to determine if they are safe to operate by determining if they are in violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) and Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). Serious violations result in driver or vehicle OOS orders, which must be corrected before the affected driver or vehicle can return to service. Drivers that ignore existing OOS orders (returning to service without taking the proper corrective action) are cited for violating an OOS order. Traffic enforcement violations also may be recorded in conjunction with an inspection.

Level I Inspections (North American Standard Inspection)

An inspection that includes examination of driver's license, medical examiner's certificate and waiver, if applicable, alcohol and drugs, driver's record of duty status as required, hours of service, seat belt, vehicle inspection report, brake system, coupling devices, exhaust system, frame, fuel system, turn signals, brake lamps, tail lamps, head lamps, lamps on projecting loads, safe loading, steering mechanism, suspension, tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels and rims, windshield wipers, emergency exits on buses, and hazardous materials (HM) requirements, as applicable.

Level II Inspections (Walk Around Driver/Vehicle Inspection)

An examination that includes each of the items specified under the North American Standard Inspection. As a minimum, Level II inspections must include examination of: driver's license, medical examinees certificate and waiver, if applicable, alcohol and drugs, driver's record of duty status as required, hours of service, seat belt, vehicle inspection report, brake system, coupling devices, exhaust system, frame, fuel system, turn signals, brake lamps, tail lamps, head lamps, lamps on projecting loads, safe loading, steering mechanism, suspension, tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels and rims, windshield wipers, emergency exits on buses, and HM requirements, as applicable. The walk-around driver/vehicle inspection generally includes only those items that can be inspected without physically getting under the vehicle.

Level III Inspections (Driver Only Inspection)

A roadside examination of the driver's license, medical certification and waiver, if applicable, driver's record of duty status as required, hours of service, seat belt, vehicle inspection report, and HM requirements, as applicable.

Level IV Inspections (Special Study)

Inspections under this heading typically include a one-time examination of a particular item. These examinations are normally made in support of a study or to verify or refute a suspected trend.

Level V Inspections (Vehicle Only Inspection)

An inspection that includes each of the vehicle inspection items specified under the North American Standard Inspection (Level I), without a driver present, conducted at any location.

Non-fatal Crash

A crash where one or more persons has non-fatal injuries requiring transportation by a vehicle for the purpose of obtaining immediate medical attention; or one or more of the vehicles were towed away from the scene due to "disabling damage". The towed vehicle need not be the truck or bus involved in the crash. The sum of the number of vehicles involved in towaway and injury crashes equals the total number of vehicles involved in non-fatal crashes.

Non-Fatal Crash Completeness Measure

This measure determines a rating based on the percentage of non-fatal crash records reported to MCMIS by the States over a 12-month time period. A ratio of predicted non-fatals to reported non-fatals is used to determine the State’s non-fatal crash completeness.

Not Rated

An unrated carrier means that a safety rating, as a result of a Compliance Review, has not been assigned to the motor carrier by the FMCSA.

OOS Rate

The Out of Service (OOS) rate represents the percentage of all inspections that resulted in OOS orders. A single inspection can result in an OOS order for either the driver or the vehicle, or potentially both; therefore data are presented in subcategories for driver and vehicle.

Other Specified Violations

Other Specified Violations include: 392.20 - Failing to properly secure parked vehicle 392.21 - Stopped vehicle interfering with traffic 392.22A - Failing to use hazard warning flashers 392.22B - Failing/Improper placement of warning devices 392.2W - Size and weight For a detailed description of the specific violations listed for each category refer to: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rulesregs/fmcsrhome.htm or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations handbook.

Overall State Rating

This rating considers all seven SSDQ measures and the Overriding Indicator, except measures with a rating of "Insufficient Data." States receive an overall score based on ratings in each of the measures and the Overriding Indicator. A State that has received a "red flag" will be automatically rated "Poor." A State with at least one "Good" measure and no measures considered "Poor" will receive a "Good" grade. A State with one measure considered "Poor" will receive a "Fair" grade; and any State with two or more "Poor" measures will receive a "Poor" grade.

Power Units

Identifies the number of trucks, tractors, hazardous material tank trucks, motor coaches, and school buses owned, term leased or trip leased by the motor carrier.

SafeStat Scored Carriers (Cat A, B, and C)

Carriers receive a SafeStat score if the carrier is deficient in at least two (of four) Safety Evaluation Areas (SEAs). A SEA with a value from 75 to 100 is defined as deficient. This range approximates the worst 25% of the carriers assessed within a particular SEA. Therefore, SafeStat requires a “critical mass” of poor performance data before a carrier is scored and assigned to a Category of A, B, or C.

SafeStat Scored Carriers Power Units (Cat A, B, and C)

The power units associated with the SafeStat Scored Carriers. (See definition above.)

Safety Rating

A motor carrier receives a safety rating when the safety investigator conducts an on-site review of the carrier's compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and the Hazardous Materials Regulations. The investigator reviews records, evaluates roadside vehicle inspection data, and crash data to determine whether a motor carrier meets the Safety Fitness standard. (Review the FMCSA Regulations for a detailed definition of a safety rating.)

Satisfactory

A safety rating received as a result of a compliance review. A Satisfactory rating is defined as: a motor carrier has in place and functioning adequate safety management controls to meet the safety fitness standard prescribed in the FMCSRs, Section 385.5. Safety management controls are adequate if they are appropriate for the size and type of operation of the particular motor carrier.

Serious Traffic Violations

Includes moving violations of a serious nature along with drug and alcohol violations. For a detailed description of the specific violations listed for each category refer to: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rulesregs/fmcsrhome.htm or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations handbook.

Specified Violations

Includes violations that are a result of serious traffic violations (moving and drug/alcohol violations) and other traffic violations. For a detailed description of the specific violations listed for each category refer to: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rulesregs/fmcsrhome.htm or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations handbook.

Towaway Crash

A crash where one or more of the vehicles were towed away from the scene due to "disabling damage." The towed vehicle need not be the truck or bus involved in the crash.

Traffic Enforcement (TE)

The Traffic Enforcement program involves the enforcement of twenty-one moving and non-moving driver violations, which are included in the driver violation portion of the roadside inspection procedures. Only those traffic enforcements that result in the performance of a subsequent roadside inspection are included in the MCSAP program. If a roadside inspection results in only a Drug or Alcohol-Related violation then it is excluded as a Traffic Enforcement Type Inspection.

Unsatisfactory

A safety rating received as a result of a compliance review. An Unsatisfactory rating is defined as: a motor carrier does not have adequate safety management controls in place to ensure compliance with the safety fitness standard which has resulted in occurrences listed in Section 385.5 (a) through (k). Motor carriers receiving an "unsatisfactory safety rating" may be subject to the provisions of Section 385.13.

Unspecified Traffic Violations

Includes: 392.2 - Local laws (general) 392.2D - Other driver violations 392.2OT - Other moving violations 392.2V - Other vehicle defects For a detailed description of the specific violations listed for each category refer to: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rulesregs/fmcsrhome.htm or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations handbook.

Vehicle Inspections

Roadside inspections (Levels I, II, and V) conducted on vehicles operated.

Vehicle OOS Rate

The percentage of vehicle inspections (Levels I, II, and V) that resulted in OOS orders.

About the Author: Marc Moncion

Marc Moncion

Marc is the Head of Safety, Compliance & Regulatory Affairs for Fleet Complete. Marc is an author and industry subject matter expert that has worked in numerous senior transportation management roles for over 25 years, including an Inspector for the MTO. Marc sits on several Federal/State/Provincial regulatory bodies, and frequently provides commentary on emerging technology, best practices and regulatory affairs. In addition, Marc is a commercial driver’s licence (CLD) holder, and can drive all types of commercial vehicles in North America.