Motor carriers and professional drivers know their Compliance, Safety Accountability (CSA) scores are important to their business. Customers prefer safe carriers and safe drivers. Insurance companies adjust rates when crashes occur and safety ratings plummet. The ability to qualify for an electronic bypass program like PrePass depends on maintaining a good safety score and staying compliant with tax, registration and permit requirements. Here’s one more reason to stay safe, legal and compliant: avoiding Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration civil monetary penalties.
FMCSA like all federal regulatory agencies, has the authority to issue fines and penalties. Those penalties may be imposed after FMCSA enforcement cases. Enforcement cases are initiated when compliance reviews, complaint investigations, terminal audits, roadside inspections, or other investigations indicate a high-risk, knowing or continuing pattern of unsafe or illegal behavior. Civil penalties can be levied against motor carriers and their employees, including drivers in certain instances, as well as against shippers, receivers, brokers and freight forwarders. They are based on violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations or Hazardous Materials Regulations.
The purpose of civil penalties is deterrence. A look at the Uniform Fine Assessment section of the FMCSA website shows how substantial that deterrence can be. Egregious hours of service violations, for example, can bring a fine of up to $16,000 and the maximum civil penalty for a hazardous materials violation is $75,000.
Plus, to maintain that deterrence impact, federal law requires federal agencies to annually adjust minimum and maximum civil penalty amounts for inflation. This is done by a rulemaking, published without notice and comment and with an immediate effective date. The 2019 adjustments to FMCSA civil penalties can be found in the Federal Register, and the cost of many of the penalties has increased.
For those subject to an FMCSA enforcement case, the Uniform Fine Assessment section above contains links to the appropriate Rules of Practice in dealing with the agency, as well as a calculator for possible penalties. FMCSA is not required to impose the maximum penalty per violation, especially when a settlement is reached and the motor carrier commits to improvements in its safety practices.
But, as FMCSA warns, the true cost of unsafe practices often goes well beyond the check that is written to the federal government. Once an enforcement case is settled, it becomes a matter of public record. The general public has access to the details of the case on FMCSA’s website — including the violations and fines paid by a motor carrier. That can be seen by customers, insurers, drivers and other employees.
Which brings us back to where we started – motor carriers and professional drivers know the importance of good CSA scores. That requires full commitment to safety and a continuing vigilance over every audit, investigation, inspection result, citation and crash. (See “The PrePass Guide to Achieving a Trucking Company Safety Culture”) Consistency is the most important attribute of a safe fleet. Every safety event is an opportunity to improve, using analysis and action to make changes for the better Keep the benefits of a good CSA score, and avoid FMCSA civil penalties, by consistently striving for safety.