How to keep getting loads and not get dropped by your freight broker.
If you were recently audited and received a conditional or unsatisfactory rating, you will have immediate and long-term consequences beyond the fines from the FMCSA.
Conditional carriers can immediately see less work from brokers, or even be restricted from future loads, while more long-term effects are higher rates for insurance at renewal and new driver prospects may completely avoid applying for a job with your company.
For these reasons, it is crucial to create a corrective action plan (CAP) before your new DOT safety rating goes into effect 60 days after the rating downgrade letter. As long as you have a CAP and show brokers proof of the CAP, you can still get broker loads.
If you already have a conditional and are requesting a safety rating upgrade, just remember that it can take up to 4 months before your corrective action plan is reviewed and upgraded due to your state process, internal staffing issues, etc.
Before we discuss what brokers want to see in a CAP plan, let’s cover the basics.
What is a DOT Safety Rating and How Do I Check It?
The FMCSA has a data-driven safety compliance and enforcement program, called the Compliance Safety and Accountability (CSA) system. This is where your fleet gets a calculated CSA score.
CSA uses data from roadside inspections and crash reports from the last two years in determining scores, which are organized in 7 BASIC categories:
- Unsafe driving
- Hours of service compliance
- Driver fitness
- Controlled substance or alcohol violations
- Vehicle maintenance
- Hazardous material compliance
- Crash indicators
The CSA can then score carriers together based on the same range of safety events within each category.
This is a 0-100 percentile reflecting the percentage of trucking companies that are scoring better in that specific category. For example, a rating of 60 would mean 60 percent of companies in your rating group are scoring higher than your company.
The system then defines the scores into the three safety ratings we mentioned previously:
- Satisfactory: 0-49
- Conditional: 50-74
- Unsatisfactory: 75-100
While there is an ongoing discussion on what these ratings should look like and how they are calculated, the one thing that is certain is they can greatly impact your business.
To see your safety rating, you can go to the SMS website (Safety Management System) where carriers can do a quick search their company by name or DOT number.
Carriers should frequent this site as it is updated monthly to make sure there is not incorrect information negatively impacting your rating.
What happens if a carrier fails a safety audit?
If a carrier fails a safety audit, the FMCSA will provide the carrier written documentation detailing the violations that caused the carrier to fail and the requirements for developing a corrective action plan (CAP).
According to Harry Sanders, retired from the FMCSA, “I think the biggest concern from most carriers that went through an audit and failed was the uncertainty of submitting a CAP and if it was acceptable and changed the rating from fail to pass.”
The CAP must explain the actions the carrier will take to address the violations identified. This is the information brokers want to see to make sure you are being a responsible carrier.
These corrective action plans are complicated and take a lot of work to be completed.
This is where CNS can come in and help you create this plan.
- First, we look at the compliance review from the audit to understand the violations and the documentation that will be required to submit for proof that violations have been corrected.
- Then, we create a Corrective Action Plan compiled of new systems, processes and procedures that will be implemented within your operation to fix safety and compliance exposures.
- Documents and files relative to critical and acute violations will be audited and reviewed by a CNS specialist before submitting, working to ensure that you will get upgraded on the first try.
- Once, we are ready to submit, we will send the Safety Rating Upgrade request and Corrective Action Plan to your state and service center to be entered into their queue for review by an FMCSA analyst.
- Following the submission, your specialist from CNS will correspond with the FMCSA analyst on final determination and guidance on any additional information requested by analyst.
CNS is very well-versed in safety and compliance laws and our experienced representatives know what information is crucial and imperative to accomplish a safety rating increase.
How can carriers get loads with a conditional rating or keep working with the same brokers?
We work with all types of brokers to provide ongoing documentation to keep you running loads until you are officially upgraded.
A few examples of brokers or freight forwards we work with include Coyote, JB Hunt, and CH Robinson.
Contact CNS immediately to represent you in the negotiation process to reduce your penalty and get you a re-payment plan, interest free.