Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Shuts Down Company

The FMCSA recently reported that they shut down an Ohio trucking company for violating agency regulations. The regulations that were allegedly violated revolved around safety issues. This comes in a string of company shutdowns that the agency has announced in a relatively short period of time.

The shutdown of the company came after the agency performed a spot check of the company’s trucks. Allegedly, the company’s fleet of trucks were operating in violation of out-of-service orders and a total of 43 safety violations. Many of the issues involved braking system issues, defective brake parts, and other equipment problems.

Legal Authority to Shut Down Companies

The FMCSA is authorized to inspect and shut down trucking companies and their fleets through a regulation. That important regulation is found in 49 C.F.R § 386.72, known as the Imminent Hazard regulation. This regulation has its origin in 49 U.S. Code § 521 and other safety statutes related to trucking companies.

This all-important regulation has the power to wreak havoc on a company and its finances. The agency is authorized to shut down a company when in their judgment the company is an imminent hazard because continued operation of the company would be substantially likely to cause:

  • death;
  • serious illness;
  • severe personal injury; or
  • substantial endangerment to health, property, or the environment.

So anytime the FMCSA inspects a company and finds that operation of that trucking company could result in one of these things, they will likely shut the company down. And in addition to these factors, the FMCSA can also shut a company down when the agency feels like transportation of hazardous material poses an imminent hazard to the public.

At this juncture, a company shut down is just the beginning. In addition to being shut down, your company will face fines that will need to be paid before beginning work again, and a company executive could even face criminal penalties. Of course, a company can challenge this agency action, and that may be the best option for a company, but it will be a legal battle.

Plan for Future

In this situation, the best defense is staying prepared and taking action, if necessary. This means that your company needs a plan and scheme to stay in compliance with federal safety regulations. This can be a daunting task given the number and complexity of regulations that every trucking company faces, but it is absolutely necessary if you want your company to stay on the road.

One of the most important steps you can take to plan for the future and take action is to have a partner with valuable legal, regulatory experience. At Anderson and Yamada, P.C. we are the legal partner that your company deserves and needs to make a plan for the future. Our experience is invaluable when it comes to ensuring that your company stays on the right side of federal regulations and that your company stays on the road. Contact us for all your trucking company’s legal needs.

Roadcheck 2013 is June 4-6

cvsa_logoThe CVSA (Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance) Roadcheck will take place June 4 – 6. CVSA certified inspectors will be out in force to conduct compliance, enforcement and educational initiatives targeted at various elements of motor carrier, vehicle, driver and cargo safety and security. Brakes, tires, lights, and other major component of the truck are examined during the 72 hours of Roadcheck. It’s expected that approximately 14 trucks or buses will be inspected every minute from Canada to Mexico during this timeframe.

Ensuring compliance with the U.S., Canadian and Mexican federal, provincial and state motor carrier safety regulations will be a top priority for both enforcement and industry during the event. Approximately three times the typical daily number of inspections will be conducted during the campaign. This year, in addition to North American Standard Level I inspections, Roadcheck is focusing special enforcement attention on passenger carrying commercial vehicles—motorcoaches and buses—as well as proper securement of cargo.

In 2012, Roadcheck emphasized a back-to-the-basics focus, with special attention paid toward braking systems and hours of service, the top ranking violation categories for vehicles and drivers, respectively. Of the 74,072 truck and bus inspections, 48,815 were North American Standard Level 1 inspections – the most comprehensive roadside inspection, of which 22.4 percent of vehicles and 3.9 percent of drivers were placed out of service.

FMCSA Unveils Enhanced DataQs

The Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) has unveiled an enhanced DataQs website at https://dataqs.fmcsa.dot.gov/Default.aspx

The FMCSA press release regarding the enhanced DataQs website is as follows:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently launched an enhanced DataQs Website with added features to improve user experience. As part of FMCSA’s overall Data Quality Program, DataQs enables motor carriers, drivers, FMCSA employees, State Partners, and the public to improve the accuracy of motor carrier and driver safety violations and crash data.

You will see a new login page but the web address is the same. While most users will enter the same login information, DataQs has sent some users an email with a new username due to changes in the username requirements. New features include an updated design to improve user experience and a step-by-step guide to assist you when requesting a review of FMCSA-issued data.

Other enhancements included in the enhanced DataQs:

  • New login page, create account page, and My DataQs dashboard
  • Help Center with more frequently asked questions
  • Clearer terminology (for example, challenges are now referred to as Requests for Data Reviews (RDRs))
  • Search capabilities within the List of Requested Reviews

FMCSA’s enforcement and compliance programs are data-driven and the Agency, together with its State Partners, is committed to continuously improving safety data. Better data means safer roads, and the enhanced DataQs Website is an important part of our continuous improvement efforts.

If you have questions or comments, please contact us at https://dataqs.fmcsa.dot.gov/ContactUs/Default.aspx or call the the DataQs Technical Support line at 877-688-2984.

Thank You,
DataQs Team
U.S. DOT/Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

FMCSA Begins Sending CSA Warning Letters

In February the FMCSA began sending warning letters to motor carriers.  This article will provide a basic overview of what a warning letter is, who will receive a warning letter, and what to do if you receive a warning letter.

Warning letters are the initial intervention under CSA.  A warning letter provides early contact with carriers who have identifiable, but not yet severe, safety problems.  It is designed to make carriers aware of their safety performance issues so they can address them early, and outlines possible consequences of continued safety problems. A sample warning letter can be found here.

A carrier will receive a warning letter if its Safety Measurement System (SMS) score exceeds the threshold in any Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) resulting in the assignment of an “Alert.”  The SMS calculates a measure for each BASIC as a percentile on a 0-100 scale.  A lower percentile indicates better compliance with safety regulations than a higher percentile.  The current thresholds that will trigger an “Alert” in any BASIC are as follows:

  • Unsafe Driving, Fatigued Driving, Crash Indicator
    • General = 65%
    • HAZMAT = 60%
    • Passenger = 50%
  • Driver Fitness, Controlled Substance/Alcohol, Vehicle Maintenance, Cargo:
    • General = 80%
    • HAZMAT = 75%
    • Passenger = 65%

If a carrier receives a warning letter, the carrier is not required to send a written response to FMCSA.  However, while a direct response to a warning letter is not required, carriers receiving warning letters should take steps to rectify the issues leading to the warning letter in order to avert more intensive interventions in the future.  Specifically, carriers should log in to the SMS here or log in to the FMCSA Portal.  Once logged in, the carrier will be able to review its data. Close attention should be given to any BASICS in which their is an Alert.  The carrier needs to ensure that all the data is accurate.  If any of the data is inaccurate, the carrier can submit a request for data review through the DataQs system.  Carriers also should develop and execute strategies that will make their operations compliant with the safety regulations.  Continued poor performance may lead to more intensive interventions. More intensive interventions include Offsite Investigations, Onsite Focused Investigations, and Onsite Comprehensive Investigations.

Finally, all carriers should sign up to receive the FMCSA CSA email updates.  By subscribing you will receive updates on program enhancements, tipsheets (like this one on warning letters), other materials, and be alerted to when new data is uploaded to the SMS.  You can subscribe here.

If you receive a warning letter and need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.