Status Report: FMCSA Carrier Compliance and Violations Rebounds to Pre-Pandemic Levels

FMCSA safety compliance and violations

Of the nearly 2.85 million roadside inspections, 57% or 1.62 million received a violation, of which 17.7% were OOS violations.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. A&I’s Enforcement Programs inform FMCSA’s ability to improve safety on our roads by detailing carrier, driver, and vehicle enforcement data across the county with FMCSA’s many tools and state partnerships.

The 2020 pandemic saw a dramatic decrease in the number of carrier reviews as the industry struggled to keep up with the supply chain emergencies, from health care supplies to keeping store shelves stocked in a lockdown.

As we learned to live during the pandemic, 2021 saw a dramatic increase in off-site audits and roadside enforcement rebounded to pre-pandemic inspection levels.


Additionally, there was a rise in the number of carriers and drivers across the nation. In the U.S., there are over 1.89 million carriers (8% more than 2020), 8.5 million drivers (3.8% more than 2020), of which nearly 5 million held a CDL, and 7.6 million vehicles. In Pennsylvania, where CNS is headquartered, there are over 68,000 carriers (9% more than 2020) with 541,000 drivers and 464,500 vehicles.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers and learn from common carrier mistakes.

Roadside Enforcement rebounds to pre-pandemic levels

According to FMCSA’s MCMIS data, updated Dec 31, the calendar year of 2021 saw:

  • 12,182 motor carrier investigations (6.3% increase over 2020, still an average decline of 1,000 reviews each year after the 2020 pandemic levels)
  • 2,852,859 commercial vehicle roadside inspections (10.5% increase over 2020, nearly back to pre-pandemic levels), and
  • 546,185 traffic enforcement inspections (10.9% increase over 2020, nearly back to pre-pandemic levels)
Roadside Enforcement20202021ChangeNotes
Motor Carrier Investigations11,46012,1826.3% increaseStill an average decline of 1,000 reviews each year after the 2020 pandemic level
Commercial Vehicle Roadside Inspections2,581,7732,852,859 10.5% increaseNearly back to pre-pandemic levels
Traffic Enforcement Inspections492,502546,185 10.9% increaseNearly back to pre-pandemic levels

In PA, the number of carrier investigations, roadside inspections, and traffic enforcement inspections were nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. Learn more about How To Prepare For A Comprehensive FMCSA Safety Audit.

Targeted Roadside Inspections are usually prompted based on poor safety data scores that are pulled as they approach the scales and can be conducted at a permanent or temporary roadside inspection location.

Of the 2.85 million roadside inspections, 57% or 1.62 million received a violation, with over 4.7 million violations found. This averages to just under 3 violations per carrier, of which 17.67% were out-of-services (OOS) violations, similar to 2020.

Of the nearly 550,000 traffic enforcement inspections, there were nearly 830,000 violations. The driver OOS rate was 10.6%, a 23% increase over the previous year. Vehicle OOS rate was 28.67%, which has risen about 1% every year since 2018. HAZMAT OOS rate is also at an all-time high since 2018.

Top trucking carrier violations in 2021

While there are a lot of rules and regulations in the trucking industry, even the basic rules are causing confusion or being ignored today.

Even though these are only acute violations, 21% of inspected carriers still failed to implement an alcohol and/or drug testing program, and over 15% failed to randomly test for drug and/or alcohol. Additionally, nearly 7% of carriers used a driver who received a positive drug test.

Remember, if a carrier has even a single acute violation related to a BASIC, their percentile may increase at or above the intervention threshold and a future carrier investigation could be coming.

If you are confused about DOT drug testing rules, talk to one of our DOT Drug and Alcohol Specialist today and turn to CNS for your drug testing program needs. We are experts in the field and ensure that all DOT drug and alcohol testing requirements are followed, including the implementation of random drug tests for you and your drivers.

When it comes to critical violations found during carrier investigations, the top violations were:

  • Not using the appropriate method to record hours of service (15.23% of critical violations)
  • False reports of records of duty status (11.09%)
  • Failing to keep minimum records of inspection and maintenance (8.67%)
  • Using a driver before receiving a pre-employment result (8.29%)
  • Inquiries into driving record not kept in DQ file (8.22%)
  • Failing to preserve supporting documents for 6 months (7.27%)
  • Failing to maintain driver qualification files on each driver (5.1%)

According to the past five years of FMCSA closed enforcement cases, the average carrier cost of non-compliance was $7,000 per carrier! On top of this, it can cost a carrier an additional $870 of downtime when a driver is placed out of service for 10 hour

Don’t become a violation statistic, take preventative compliance steps now

Ensuring drivers are following FMCSA regulations and company policies can be overwhelming when trying to manage commercial driver licenses (CDLs), endorsements, physicals, daily vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs) and training certificates manually.

This is where being proactive is key.

Proactive Safety Management (PSM) means you and your company are working hard to be safe, compliant and stay ahead of the FMCSA. Our DOT Compliance Programs are built around having a proactive mindset.

Carriers being proactive will put them in a better position to mitigate risk, improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and spend more time with their drivers to manage a safe and compliant fleet. 

With proactive safety, carriers will be more organized and will have a measured plan to lower motor carrier Safety Measurement System (SMS) scores.

When partnering with a third-party program, your fleet has a team of experts that costs much less than hiring a safety director or team and can receive constant monitoring to keep your operation FMCSA compliant. Driver management will be simplified and the driver hiring process will shorten.

Not only will proactive safety help your fleet with DOT compliance, but it is proven to lower insurance premiums as you will have documented ways to show a reduction in risk.

Are you ready to be proactive?

When you are ready, you can talk to one of our DOT Compliance Specialists about which DOT Compliance Program works for your company.

We offer several different program levels depending on the size of your organization, however our PSM Motor Carrier Program is more common when considering affordability and the comprehensive DOT compliance assistance.

Our PSM Motor Carrier Program includes:

  • DOT audit support
  • ELD management
  • Driver Qualification File (DQF) Management
  • New driver on-boarding
  • Driver safety meetings
  • CSA score management
  • Policies and handbooks
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • and more

Learn more about our DOT Compliance Programs

For more information, contact us at 888.260.9448 or

Questions about DOT Compliance, Licensing, Audits, Programs, etc.?

Our DOT Specialists are here to help!

Related news

Monthly Newsletter

March 25, 2023

Watch the most recent episode for a Quick Trucking News Update

What are you searching for?

Related Services

Is DOT Compliance your Top Priority?

Our DOT Compliance Programs ensure it is your top priority and keeps your business running.

Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter

Receive the latest transportation and trucking industry information about FMCSA and DOT Audits, Regulations, etc.

Social Media

Related news

Monthly Newsletter

March 25, 2023

Watch the most recent episode for a Quick Trucking News Update