As of May 3, 2021, the DOT has increased the fine amount for trucking violations to reflect inflation, but why twice in one year?
Due to the 2020 inflation fine increase that happened January 11, the May 3 announcement for 2021 annual changes means it is the second time this year the U.S. Department of Transportation adjusted fines.
The DOT must publish any annual minimum and maximum penalty adjustments by January 15 of every year, and the new levels take effect immediately upon publication of the rule. This means we will not see another fine increase until after January 16, 2022 or later.
This is in accordance with the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015.
This latest change means the fine amounts have been increased 1.01182 percent.
For example, new minimum penalty for Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) violations [49 U.S.C. 521(b)(2)(C)] or employer violations pertaining to knowingly allowing, authorizing employee violations of out-of-service order [49 U.S.C. 521(b)(2)(C)] will be $5,902 instead of $5,833.
This rule does not change previously assessed or enforced penalties that DOT is actively collecting or has collected.
As of January 11, 2021, the DOT gives authority to issue fines for violating Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse requirements.
This new year brings the annual changes to the U.S. Department of Transportation adjusted fines and the second full year of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations CDL Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse.
In accordance with the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, the DOT published a final rule detailing the 2020 inflation adjustments to civil penalty amounts that may be imposed for violations of certain DOT regulations.
The DOT must publish any annual minimum and maximum penalty adjustments by January 15 of every year, and the new levels take effect immediately upon publication of the rule, which was January 11, 2021.
Fine amounts have been increased 1.01764 percent.
For example, Commercial driver’s license (CDL) violations [49 U.S.C. 521(b)(2)(C)] or employer violations pertaining to knowingly allowing, authorizing employee violations of out-of-service order [49 U.S.C. 521(b)(2)(C)] new minimum penalty will be $5,833.
This rule does not change previously assessed or enforced penalties that DOT is actively collecting or has collected.
FMCSA also revised appendix B to include civil penalties for an employer, employee, medical review officer, or service agent who violates the regulations implementing the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse at 49 CFR part 382, subpart G.
Upcoming FMCSA CDL Clearinghouse Violations
As of October 2020, more than 150,000 employers and owner-operators have registered with the Clearinghouse. According to the FMCSA, this number is well off the 525,000 estimated regulated motor carriers in the U.S.
With the FMCSA Clearinghouse now in effect for pre-employment, random testing and return-to-duty processes, employers of CDL drivers must follow a new pre-employment process when hiring a potential new driver.
Violations can occur if required information is not loaded into the database, or if new-hired drivers start driving before a new hire gives consent for a detailed query.
The employer needs to make sure the driver is registered to the FMCSA Clearinghouse, then request electronic driver consent to run a detailed query, run a query on the driver (employer or C/TPA), and ensure no recent negative drug testing history is present.
The other major required process for employers, including owner-operators, is to annually query all current CDL drivers at least once a year to make sure no violations appeared in the database. If the limited query returns any results, a detailed query is required.
This means the majority of CDL drivers need to have had a limited query run on them by January 6, 2021 or they face potential audit violations and fines if a DOT Officer determines the queries were completed late or not at all.
Employers are also required to report any other drug or alcohol violations by their drivers to the database. This can include direct observation of an employee using alcohol or a controlled substance while on the job, information obtained from a previous employer, and traffic citations for driving a commercial vehicle under the influence.
Any fleet or O/O who does not comply with the Clearinghouse rules is subject to civil and criminal penalties, which could include fines up to $2,500 per offense.
Note: Clearinghouse violations can still be cited and fined even though they occurred prior to the effective date of this rulemaking.
The 2020 adjustments to these civil penalties are summarized in the chart below.
The DataQ System can help fight and remove incorrect records that could be keeping your scores or insurance rates high.
Every year the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) releases the top concerns affecting the trucking industry. As expected, the latest survey revealed that the shortage of qualified truck drivers and cost of trucking insurance remain top concerns.
These issues will continue to be a problem for years to come. However, there are tools that fleet managers, owner-operators, and truck drivers should understand that could help simplify the hiring process and possibly reduce trucking insurance rates.
These tools include:
- Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) Reports
- Inspection Selection System (ISS) Scores, and
- the DataQ Process
PSP Reports Used In Trucker Hiring Decisions
The FMCSA created the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) to help carriers make more informed hiring decisions. This database includes a commercial driver’s five-year crash and three-year inspection history from the FMCSA Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) which is largely the same data used in the carriers CSA performance measurements.
PSP records are simply a history of violations without scoring like in the CSA score system and are available for companies hiring commercial truck drivers.
Fleets can use the three-year roadside violation history and 5-year crash history alongside a driver’s employment history to analyze a their potential driving habits.
These reports are also valuable for truck drivers looking for jobs, which keep them informed of their current record and any potentially incorrect data that could be challenged and removed with the DataQ process. A driver likely looking for a new job should pull a report at least twice per year to verify their record is accurate.
Need more information?Our DOT Compliance Specialists will give you a free estimate and can also answer any questions you have regarding DOT Compliance, Trucking Insurance or any other questions related to the Transportation Industry.
ISS Scores Helps Roadside Inspectors Pull Drivers For Inspection
Usually, inspectors look for physical defects and spot visible violations that warrant a truck to be pulled over for a full roadside inspection.
However, inspectors have additional tools to determine if a roadside inspection is recommended.
When rolling into weight scales, inspectors’ computer terminals quickly pull basic information on the truck, driver and company. One of the data points is the “Inspection Selection System” or “ISS” Score.
These scores combine CSA score percentage, out-of-service rates, crash data, and previous audit information. If the ISS Score is high, an inspection is warranted. If the score is not too high and considered “optional”, it still may be worth it to an inspector to look at the truck pulling through.
Fleets can find their ISS score through their FMCSA Portal or if logging into the SMS system.
DataQ is Used To Clear Incorrect Information Harming Your Fleet
If you notice incorrect information in your PSP report or the CSA Safety Measurement System (SMS), there is a tool—DataQ System—to help fight and remove these records that could be keeping your scores or insurance rates high.
When you want to challenge an incorrect violation, a crash that meets the challenge guidelines, or an inspection assigned to you by mistake, you can achieve this through the DataQ process.
DataQ is the online system for drivers, motor carriers, Federal and State agencies, and others to file concerns about Federal and State data maintained in MCMIS and released to the public by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The most important part of the DataQ Process is gathering the best supporting documents when making your case. This may include ELD data, video records, and more. There is a limit to how many times you can challenge that same violation, so being thorough the first time will help you win your case.
If you have an eligible crash that occurred on or after June 1, 2017, you may submit a challenge with compelling evidence to prove the crash was Not Preventable. During the Demonstration Program, eligible crashes are limited to the following:
- Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) was struck by a motorist driving under the influence of illegal substance (or related offense)
- CMV was struck by a motorist driving the wrong direction
- CMV was struck in the rear
- CMV was struck while it was legally stopped or parked, including when the vehicle is unattended
- CMV struck an individual committing, or attempting to commit, suicide by stepping or driving in front of the CMV
- CMV sustained disabling damage after striking an animal in the roadway
- Crash as a result of an infrastructure failure, falling trees, rocks, or debris
- CMV was struck by cargo or equipment from another vehicle
What can CNS do for me in the DataQ system?
We have built great rapport with the FMCSA challenging DataQ’s and have the experience and expertise to determine what can and cannot be challenged.
Our DOT Compliance Specialists are well-versed in the FMCSA rules and regulations, as well as what an officer is required to note on their report.
Whether you would like our DOT Specialists to challenge one DataQ or conduct a monthly analysis of all roadside violations to potentially challenge, we have a cost effective solution for your company.
- Request copies of an Inspection Report
- Contest incorrect, multiple-listed, or missing IEP/shipper information.
- Citation with associated violation
- Assigned to wrong motor carrier or driver
- Challenging a DOT Audit/Investigation
- Challenging a fine as a result of a Notice of Claim or Notice of Violation
- Crash duplicates, record missing, crash report contains incorrect information, crash preventability program*
On June 4-6, 2019—as part of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) International Roadcheck—67,072 truck inspections were conducted, removing 12,019 vehicles and 2,784 drivers from roads across the US and Canada.
The International Roadcheck is conducted annually and is meant to remove unsafe commercial motor vehicles (CMV) and drivers from roads. During this 72-hour inspection, 17.9% of vehicles and 4.2% of drivers were placed out of service.
The basis for violations comes from the CVSA North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria.
There are eight different levels of inspection that the CVSA follows, however the truck inspections in this roadcheck were only subjected to the North American Standard (NAS) Level I, II, and III Inspections.
- NAS Level I Inspection –includes a 37-step procedure examining the driver operating requirements and vehicle mechanical fitness.
- NAS Level II Inspection—includes anything that can be inspected without getting under the CMV.
- NAS Level III Inspection—includes a review of driver requirements, such as the license, cargo and vehicle documentation, record of duty status, seat belt usage, etc.
There were 60,058 Level I, II, and III Inspections conducted in the US and 7,014 in Canada. Respectively, the vehicle and driver out-of-service rate for the US was 17.7% and 4.4% and 19.9% and 2% for Canada.
Inspections focused on violations related to steering and suspension systems, which resulted in identifying:
- 408 steering violations or 2.5% of all out-of-service violations
- 703 suspension violations or 4.3% of all out-of-service violations
Truck inspection results
The results for inspections are summarized below and include out-of-service vehicle, CMV driver, seatbelt, hazardous materials/dangerous goods and motorcoach violations.
There were 16,347 vehicles placed out-of-service with the top violation being for braking systems. The list below summarizes the remainder of recorded vehicle violations.
Out-of-service vehicle violations:
|Vehicle violation category||Number of violations||Percent of out-of-service violations|
|Tires and wheels||3156||19.3%|
There were 3,173 drivers placed out-of-service with the top violation being for hours of service. The list below summarizes the remainder of recorded driver violations.
Driver out-of-service violations:
|Driver violation category||Number of violations||Percent of out-of-service violations|
|Hours of Service||1,179||37.2%|
|Wrong Class License||714||22.5%|
|Violating License Restriction||37||1.2%|
There were 748 seat belt violations and out of 3,851 CMVs inspected, 527 violations for commercial motor vehicles transporting hazardous materials/dangerous goods with the most common violation being for loading. The list below summarizes the remainder of recorded violations for hazardous materials/dangerous goods.
|Hazardous Materials/Dangerous Goods||Number of violations||Percent of out-of-service violations|
During the International Roadcheck, 823 motorcoaches were inspected with 47 vehicles and 21 drivers being placed out of service. Inspections included a review of emergency exits, electrical cable sand systems in engine and battery compartments and seating.
Stay DOT compliant
Knowing what your CSA score is and how it affects your company and all of the requirements to pass inspections, whether it be for brake safety or suspension and steering, will allow you to stay compliant and plan your operations more efficiently.
If you have any questions, call (888) 260-9448 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are CSA scores?
CSA stands for compliance, safety and accountability. CSA scores are a system used by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to identify high-risk motor carriers.
How are my CSA scores calculated?
Your CSA scores are based on multiple factors called Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories or “BASIC” categories. Roadside inspection violations, as well as investigation results, fall under 1 of 7 categories, including:
- Unsafe driving – moving and parking violations, such as speeding, improper lane changes, no seatbelt, cell phone/handheld device use, improper parking, etc.
- Crash indicator – DOT reportable crashes (injury, towaway or fatality)
- Hours of Service (HOS) compliance – falsifying your record-of-duty status, inadequate paperwork for ELD, driving, on-duty and rest break violations
- Vehicle maintenance – mechanical issues and not making required repairs
- Controlled substance/alcohol – driving under the influence
- Hazardous materials compliance – unsafe or incorrect handling and/or documentation of hazardous materials, including improper or inadequate placards
- Driver fitness – Unfit to drive due to physical health or lack of training (sickness, no medical card, driving a vehicle you are not qualified to drive (i.e.- tanker with no ‘N’ endorsement, etc.)
Each time you get a violation, depending on the category and severity of the violation, points are added to your CSA scores, and range from 1 to 10 (less to more severe).
The “safety scale percentages” (CSA scores) in each category are compared to other motor carriers with similar registration information and range from 0 to 100 percent. You want your percentage or CSA score to be as low as possible. For example, a 5% score in “vehicle maintenance” means that your company is safer than 95% of motor carriers on the road.
The chart below lists some of the top unsafe driving violations that will affect your CSA scores.
|Driving a CMV while texting||10|
|Speeding: 15+ mph over limit or in construction zone||10|
|Speeding: 11-14 mph over limit||7|
|Driving a CMV without a wearing a seatbelt||7|
|Failing to obey a traffic control device||5|
|Following too close||5|
|Improper lane changes, turns, or passing||5|
|Failing to yield right of way||5|
|Having or using a radar detector||5|
|Speeding: 6-10 mph over limit||4|
|Having unauthorized passengers||1|
Insurance premiums are a major contributor to trucking companies having to close their doors. As premiums increase, they will eventually get to the point of being unaffordable, causing many trucking companies to go out of business.
For this reason, it is important to note that receiving a warning for one of the above violations can still affect your insurance premiums. Just because you did not receive a ticket does not necessarily mean you are in the clear. In other words, a driver vehicle examination report, which is what an officer uses to report CSA violations, can be issued without a citation.
What do my CSA scores mean?
Your CSA scores are used to identify you as a safe driver or a high-risk driver, which can help or hurt you and your carrier in several ways.
- Insurance rates – The higher your CSA scores, the higher your insurance premiums, and the lower your CSA scores, the lower your insurance premiums.
- DOT audits and roadside inspections – The lower your CSA scores, the fewer compliance checks you will have, including DOT audits and roadside inspections.
- Clients – CSA scores are public and can be seen by current or potential clients. If you want to maintain or grow your client base, keep low CSA scores.
- Drivers – Having good CSA scores can help you retain current drivers and recruit new drivers. Good drivers want to work for a company that is safe.
How to check my CSA scores?
The FMCSA’s Safety Management System (SMS) website makes all data available and is updated on a monthly basis. To check the full details of your CSA scores, you will need your DOT number and your DOT pin number. This allows you to see “ALERTS,” which are a determining factor of FMCSA audit selections and are issued when a percentage score is over the limit for what the FMCSA considers safe.
Without your DOT PIN number, you cannot see percentage scores or ALERTS, as this information is not public, only the “raw data” is public. Your PIN is on the top left of your “New Entrant Audit” letter from the FMCSA. If you have this letter, it is important that you write down the DOT PIN.
If you do not know your DOT PIN number, contact us and we can retrieve it for you from the FMCSA for a very small fee.
If you drive under your carrier’s DOT number, your CSA score and any violations would be under their DOT.
How can I lower my CSA scores?
You can improve on your CSA scores by putting a system in place to check the BASICs regularly. Determine what categories you need improvement in and put training in place to improve in those particular areas.
Roadside inspections with no violations also cause your scores to lower faster. Violations will reduce in “severity” after 6 months, 13 months, and then are removed from your CSA record completely after 2 years.
If your CSA score is low, you can maintain it by hiring drivers with good PSP scores (the FMCSA pre-employment screening program, includes MVR information and all CSA violations a driver has had for 3 years), providing adequate on-board and recurring training, internal inspections, regular preventative vehicle maintenance, using an ELD solution to avoid maintenance violation, and consequences to drivers who receive violations.