Understanding the CSA Intervention Process and the Importance of Warning Letters

Understanding the CSA Intervention Process and the Importance of Warning Letters

FMCSA will monitor your safety performance and compliance through its SMS. If you do not improve, they may investigate your company further.

A motor carrier is considered high-risk based on many sources of information, and when they are, the FMCSA wants to understand why.

They seek this understanding through the intervention process.

The CSA intervention process evaluates why safety problems occur, recommends remedies, encourages corrective action, and when necessary, invokes strong penalties for carriers failing to comply.

Let’s dive into the entire process and learn how to be proactive when dealing with the FMCSA.

What is the CSA intervention process?

The FMCSA has three categories of intervention when dealing with a potentially high-risk carrier: Early Contact, Investigation, and Follow-On.

Early Contact

Early Contact usually happens in the form of warning letters or a targeted roadside inspection.

Warning letters alert safety performance and compliance problems to motor carriers early on. If they do not improve their safety metrics after this warning, they may face Offsite or Onsite Investigations.

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.

Investigation

Investigationis the hands-on analysis used to identify safety performance and compliance problems. There are three types of investigations:

  1. Offsite Investigation: A safety investigator requests copies of documents from a carrier and reviews the documents remotely, to identify specific safety performance and compliance problems.
  2. Onsite Focused Investigation: A safety investigator focuses on specific safety performance and compliance problems at the carrier’s place of business and may interview employees and perform vehicle inspections.
  3. Onsite Comprehensive Investigation: A safety investigator reviews the entire safety operation at a carrier’s place of business and may interview employees and perform vehicle inspections.

Follow-On

Lastly,the Follow-Oncategoryhas four consequences based on a motor carriers investigation result.

  1. Cooperative Safety Plan (CSP): A voluntary plan a carrier may implement with the help of SIs to address safety problems. This plan may be used alone or with a Notice of Violation (NOV), but it cannot replace a Notice of Claim (NOC).
  2. Notice of Violation (NOV): A formal notice that violations are severe enough to warrant formal action, but not civil penalties. To avoid further intervention from FMCSA, the carrier must take corrective action and provide evidence of it, or contest the violations.
  3. Notice of Claim (NOC): A formal notice that violations are severe enough to warrant assessment and civil penalties.
  4. Operation Out of Service Order (OOSO): An order requiring the carrier to immediately cease all motor vehicle operations.

Exceeding a BASICs Intervention Threshold will trigger a warning letter

Motor carriers must take warning letters seriously as they are the first step in the intervention process.

The FMCSA sends warning letters when safety performance data indicates they are not complying with safety regulations.

These letters identify which Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) have higher than average safety compliance problems and outlines possible consequences if these problems are not fixed.

The BASIC “intervention thresholds” were established because they are strong indicators of future crash risk and exceeding them can put you on FMCSA’s priority lists which can later result in fines and violations.

The seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories are:

  1. Unsafe Driving: Speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, inattention, or failure to use seatbelts
  2. Hours of Service (HOS) Compliance
  3. Crash Indicator: History of crash involvement
  4. Driver fitness: Invalid license, medically unfit to operate a CMV
  5. Controlled substances/alcohol
  6. Vehicle maintenance: Failure to make required repairs
  7. Hazardous (HAZMAT) materials compliance: Leaking containers, improper packaging and/or placarding

In Aug 2021, Unsafe Driving intervention threshold was 65% for general carriers, 60% for hazmat, and 50% for passenger carriers.

If a carrier has one or more Acute and/or Critical Violations related to this BASIC, their percentile may increase at or above the intervention threshold.

In Aug 2021, Unsafe Driving intervention threshold was 65% for general carriers, 60% for hazmat, and 50% for passenger carriers.

What should you do if you receive a warning letter from the FMCSA?

If you do receive a warning letter, it is your chance to improve your safety performance and compliance without further intervention from the FMCSA.

Read the letter carefully as it:

  • Identifies your company’s specific safety performance and compliance problems
  • Explains how to access your safety record, and
  • Outlines the consequences if you do not improve

Motor carriers then need to develop and execute strategies that will make their operations compliant with the safety regulations outlined.

If you do not create a plan now, a future audit investigation may require you to create a Safety Management Plan (SMP) to address corrective action in the key areas of violation.

How To Prepare For A Comprehensive FMCSA Safety Audit

FMCSA will continue to monitor your safety performance and compliance through its SMS. If you do not improve, they may investigate your company further.

There are 4 best practices every carrier should prioritize:

  1. Maintain good record-keeping procedures – keep all documentation current and accurate
  2. Good company policies – Focus on hiring, work, and discipline
  3. Proof of consistent Hours of Service – monitoring, auditing, and corrective actions for logbook violations
  4. Maintain good vehicle maintenance records  – DVIR, annual inspections, and preventative maintenance

If you feel overwhelmed or do not know where to start, you can always conduct a Mock DOT audit where third-party experts, like Compliance Navigation Specialists, can go through the audit process to identify issues that need correcting.

Are you being reactive or proactive?

The best tip we can provide carriers is to exceed, and not “just meet” the DOT regulations.

At CNS, our DOT Compliance Programs focus on Proactive Safety Management (PSM), a mindset that will ensure your fleet’s safety and compliance is always in order and ahead of the FMCSA.

Our PSM Motor Carrier Program includes:

  • ELD management
  • Driver Qualification File 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 info@cnsprotects.com.