As a trucking business owner, one of your duties is to offer a safe environment for the staff, customers, and vendors.
But unfavorable things happen from time to time and an elevated number of violations triggers the FMCSA to conduct a compliance intervention.
Luckily, there are things you can do to avoid those triggers and continue leading your business in peace. In this article, you’ll find the four main things to avoid to prevent a review.
Let’s dive right in.
What’s Going On with Roadside Inspections?
Every roadside violation can affect your CSA scores. And the higher CSA score triggers the government to perform a compliance review.
While some people think that roadside inspections are for insurance purposes or brokers, it’s not the reality. CSA scores help the FMCSA target trucking companies that are lax with safety, and roadside inspections help carriers make roads a safer place.
So, the higher your scores or the more CSA alerts you have, the more likely the FMCSA will visit you for a roadside inspection.
The 4 Ways to Protect Your Business From Safety Audits
CSA scores are the most important factors that lead the FMCSA to decide whether to review your company or not. Elevated CSA scores automatically trigger the FMCSA to pay you a visit for a review.
So keeping your CSA scores as low as possible can help you prevent FMCSA interventions.
2. Not All Accidents Receive the Same Level of Scrutiny
All crashes that occur on the road are tragic, but not all result in the same level of FMCSA scrutiny. High-profile or fatality crashes are one of the main triggers for FMCSA to review your company.
However, when we say high-profile, you should know that the FMCSA isn’t coming in on every serious crash or fatality. It has to rise to the level of somebody drawing attention to it.
For example, John Seidl, a nationally known DOT/FMCSA expert who recently joined us on a webinar mentioned the Walmart crash with the comedian Tracy Morgan as an example of an accident that received a high level of visibility in the media, and as a result, was particularly susceptible to a safety review. In his long career, he's seen many other tragic accidents on the same level or worse that did not get reviewed.
The bottom line: just because you get into a crash doesn't mean you'll be reviewed by the FMCSA.
3. Treat Your Neighbor Like You Want to Be Treated
FMCSA has a complaint database, which is anonymous – this means you’ll never know who filed a complaint against you.
While complaints are anonymous, if the FMCSA comes in, you may ask and they have to tell you the reason for their visit. So feel free to ask:
Are you here because of my scores?
Are you here because of a high-profile crash?
Or are you here because I got a complaint?
4. Always Do Your Research
Drivers have commercial driver’s licenses. Trucking companies have their CSA scores monitored at the roadside based on your DOT number.
Drivers also have PSP (pre-employment screening program) scores, which include the following:
Hours of service warnings
Cell phone warnings
Drug and alcohol
If you refuse to pay $10 for a PSP, you might not be aware of all the violations that are on there.
Safety Audit FAQs
Do you need to be worried about warning letters?
You don’t really need to worry about getting warning letters. Warning letters don’t cause a review, but CSA scores do. Some companies get warning letters often, yet they don’t lose sleep over it.
How do you keep your documents in line and make sure that you have your safety checks and driver document updated regularly?
What’s the difference between Safety Audit and FMCSA Intervention?
Safety audits will never result in fines and penalties. It’s a simple questionnaire with yes or no questions for companies in their first 18 months in operation and it doesn’t result in a rating. Based on the answers, you can either pass the safety audit or fail it. If you passed the audit – congratulations – you’re good to continue operations.
However, if you fail it, you’ll need to complete a Corrective Action Plan and submit what’s required so all those no’s turn into yes. After fixing any required items and submitting the Corrective Action Plan, you will be upgraded to pass and you’ll get back in business.
The concept of a safety audit is good. On the other hand, they only do the intervention, and the compliance review if you have any of the following:
Poor CSA scores
Hired a driver with a poor rating
If you avoid the four things listed above, you might get a safety audit, but never get a compliance review intervention.
Do adverse ratings get published right away?
If you’re a hazmat carrier and you get a proposed conditional or onset rating, it’s supposed to get published on the government website in 45 days. So if you fix the problem and do an upgrade in those 45 days, the public might never see it.
If you’re a non-hazmat carrier, you have 60 days. So if you have a bad review, you have two months to fix your problem, send updated information, show you corrected the problem, and you can get your rating upgraded before shippers or brokers ever see it.