Any onsite investigation — even a focused review — performed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has the potential to result in a safety rating for a motor carrier.
As a part of its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) enforcement model, FMCSA may perform either an onsite focused or comprehensive investigation. To understand why a focused investigation may result in a safety rating, you must look at the components of the compliance review contained in the comprehensive investigation.
Comprehensive investigation in DOT Audit
A comprehensive CSA investigation contains the elements of a DOT audit (compliance review). It examines all areas of compliance, and violations are scored in accordance with Appendix B to Part 385. The model categorizes areas of compliance into six factors:
- Factor 1 General: Parts 387 and 390;
- Factor 2 Driver: Parts 382, 383, and 391;
- Factor 3 Operational: Parts 392 and 395;
- Factor 4 Vehicle: Parts 393 and 396;
- Factor 5 Hazmat: Parts 397, 171, 177, and 180; and
- Factor 6 Accident: Recordable Rate.
Serious violations within each category are identified as either critical or acute.
Critical violations relate to a breakdown in a carrier’s management controls. For each pattern of noncompliance with a critical regulation during a compliance review, one point will be assessed to that safety rating factor. There is an exception, however. For each pattern of noncompliance with a critical regulation relative to Part 395, Hours of Service of Drivers, two points will be assessed.
For acute violations, noncompliance with a single regulation is considered so severe that it requires immediate corrective actions by a motor carrier. For each instance of noncompliance with an acute regulation during a compliance review, 1.5 points will be assessed to that safety rating factor.
The points accumulated during the audit from all acute and/or critical violations from all factors are used to rate the carrier as:
- Satisfactory: 0 points,
- Conditional: 1 point, or
- Unsatisfactory: 2 or more points.
A focused investigation is a CSA intervention that targets one or more areas of compliance using CSA BASICs (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories). For example, if your roadside inspection data show violations in the Hours-of-Service Compliance BASIC, the FMCSA will audit you using Factor 3 (Operational: Parts 392 and 395) from the compliance review model. The regulations limit the auditor to the use of factors with acute and critical violations during any investigation, even carrier visits triggered by CSA data.
Focused investigations will not result in Satisfactory safety ratings because not all regulatory parts are examined. However, it is possible that an onsite focused investigation may result in no rating — or a Conditional or Unsatisfactory rating — if problems are discovered.
How can that be? If one BASIC is audited and results in 1 or 2 points, the carrier will receive a Conditional or Unsatisfactory based on Appendix B to Part 385. It has achieved the minimum number of accrued points so there is no need to perform an entire compliance review.
Onsite focused vs. comprehensive investigations
Over the past several years, onsite focused investigations have exceeded the number of compliance reviews.
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