“We urge you to take this warning letter seriously and improve your safety record,”Posted by in Cargo securement | Load binders | Load Securement | rachet straps | ratchet tie down straps | truck tie downs | winch straps
This month the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration expects to start expanding the reach of its new safety regime, CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability). It’s going beyond the nine pilot test states to all states with warning letters to carriers whose safety performance is falling short.
The warning letters will identify the areas where the carrier has missed the mark and explain how carriers can see their own data online and correct it if it is wrong. The letters also spell out what steps the agency may take against the carrier if it does not correct the problem.
“We urge you to take this warning letter seriously and improve your safety record,” the letters will say.
CSA Program Manager Gary Woodford said the agency will take a phased approach to sending out the letters. The agency wants to be sure its state and regional personnel are not overwhelmed by phone calls from carriers that receive the letters.
The agency’s experience in the pilot states indicates that there will be a strong response. More than half of the pilot-state carriers that received warning letters took action, mainly by going to the CSA website and checking their data. Woodford said the agency is encouraged by that strong response.
The first step
The warning letter, which is triggered by a carrier’s performance in roadside inspections and any crashes it may have been involved in, is the first step in a series of gradually tougher enforcement actions.
The letter will cite deficiencies in any of the seven safety categories the agency has established as a way to gauge performance. These categories, called Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Categories, or BASICs, are: Unsafe Driving, Fatigued Driving, Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances and Alcohol, Vehicle Maintenance, Cargo-Related and Crash Indicator.
Carriers receive a percentile ranking of their performance in each category compared to other, similar carriers. The warning letter is triggered when their rank exceeds a threshold determined by the agency.
The agency will inform carriers in separate communications about any egregious violations by drivers, such as driving without a commercial license or driving after being placed out of service.
The warning letters also say that failure to improve safety performance will lead to further action.
What comes next
If carriers don’t improve their performance after receiving an intervention letter, FMCSA has a range of actions in its arsenal, starting with a targeted roadside inspection based on data that inspectors get from the CSA system. These inspections will take place at permanent and temporary facilities where the inspectors can wirelessly link into the CSA database.
The next step would be an offsite investigation, in which the carrier must submit documents such as toll receipts or drug testing records to the agency or a state partner so officials can identify safety problems.
Continued problems, or more significant ones, can lead to an onsite investigation that focuses on a specific problem or looks comprehensively at the carrier’s safety management system.
From there, the agency can move to a voluntary Cooperative Safety Plan in which the carrier addresses safety issues in its operations.
Getting even tougher, the agency can issue a Notice of Violation that spells out a carrier’s safety deficiencies and requires a response.
The next steps would be a NoÂtice of Claim – a civil penalty – or the ultimate penalty, an Out of Service Order requiring the carrier to stop operating.
Woodford said if a carrier’s initial violations are significant enough, the agency will not necessarily send a warning letter but will move straight to an offsite or onsite investigation.
Later this year, probably in August or September, the agency intends to publish a proposal to establish new safety fitness procedures under CSA. That rule would not be final until close to the end of the year.
From the January 2011 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.