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FMCSA CSA New Carrier Entrant Audits Look for “Deadly Sins”

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has raised the bar for passing a new carrier safety audit. In December 2008, the agency announced that new carriers will automatically fail an audit if they have committed any of 15 violations.

A carrier who fails an audit is notified within 45 days and given 60 days to correct the problem or lose its operating authority. Passenger carriers and hazmat haulers are given only 45 days to correct violations.

They check compliance with requirements related to insurance, accident records, equipment and maintenance records, driver qualifications, CDL license standards, driver records of duty status, drug and alcohol testing, and hazardous materials, if applicable. The new entrant audit was originally designed to stress education before enforcement.

In the past it was a pass/fail audit that very few failed. If an auditor found critical safety problems it triggered a formal Safety Compliance Review. A carrier could still pass, for example, even if it did not have a drug and alcohol testing program or had not implemented random testing.

Under the new rules a carrier automatically fails if an auditor finds a single occurrence of these violations. FMCSA looked back at audits conducted in a recent five year period and estimated that 47.9% would have been failures under the new rules. Since about 40,000 audits are done each year, that means more than 19,000 Motor Carriers could now fail annually. “One would not necessarily expect such a high failure rate to persist after the rule is implemented,” FMCSA noted in a December 2008 Federal Register notice. “Upon implementation of this rule, many carriers will take the appropriate action to pass the stricter new entrant safety audit, and the actual failure rate will be significantly lower.”

Safety regulations that are being called the “15 deadly sins” that will result in failure of a motor carrier entrant audit:

  1. Failing to implement an alcohol and/or controlled substances testing program.
  2. Using a driver who has refused to submit to an alcohol or controlled substances test required under Part 382.
  3. Using a driver known to have tested positive for a controlled substance.
  4. Failing to implement a random controlled substances and/or alcohol testing program.
  5. Knowingly using a driver who does not possess a valid CDL.
  6. Knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting, or authorizing an employee with a commercial driver’s license which is suspended, revoked, or canceled by a state or who is disqualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
  7. Knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting, or authorizing a driver to drive who is disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
  8. Operating a motor vehicle without having in effect the required minimum levels of financial responsibility coverage.
  9. Operating a passenger carrying vehicle without having in effect the required minimum levels of financial responsibility coverage.
  10. Knowingly using a disqualified driver.
  11. Knowingly using a physically unqualified driver.
  12. Failing to require a driver to make a record of duty status.
  13. Requiring or permitting the operation of a commercial motor vehicle declared "out-of-service" before repairs are made.
  14. Failing to correct out-of-service defects listed by driver in a driver vehicle inspection report before the vehicle is operated again.
  15. Using a commercial motor vehicle not periodically inspected.

FMCSA expects that CSA will provide safety benefits by enabling the agency to

  1. Increase its reach by assessing whether most motor carriers and drivers are safe and holding them accountable by regularly determining their safety fitness;
  2. enhance its investigative and enforcement actions through the greater use of less resource-intensive interventions; and improve its ability to identify safety deficiencies through better use of data.

Under CSA, all carriers--and eventually all drivers--with sufficient safety data available will receive a safety rating that is periodically updated. Currently, FMCSA is able to provide safety ratings for relatively few carriers and for no drivers. As described earlier, CSA will employ a progressive array of interventions that can be tailored to match the severity of the safety problems they are intended to correct.

CSA intends to use new data--such as information from police accident reports about driver-related factors contributing to a crash--and improve existing data sources--by, for example, using its database of licensed commercial drivers to identify all drivers with convictions for unsafe driving practices, as well as the carriers they work for--to enable a more precise assessment of safety problems.

CSA will support evolving and new enforcement and compliance efforts. For example, (1) carriers from Canada and Mexico that operate in the United States under open border agreements will be rated under CSA in the same way as U.S. carriers; (2) violations found through audits of new entrants--a program that FMCSA is working to strengthen--will be used in the CSA safety measurement system; and (3) data sources related to 7 Core Behavioral Areas of CSA or BASIC (drivers' health) will be developed to focus attention on drivers qualifications, a key FMCSA policy area.

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