Updating Motor Carrier Compliance, Part 2

Accurate and current status in key compliance areas can be measured with technology. Accountable individuals can be recognized appropriately.

Part I of this article was devoted to understanding Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expectations of carriers regarding regulatory compliance and the methodology FMCSA uses to measure carrier compliance and assign carrier safety ratings. This second part examines recent trends in noncompliance. We will then cover how information technology can be used by motor carriers to successfully implement a cost-effective strategy of detailed processes and procedures to ensure regulatory compliance throughout the organization.

Compliance Reviews
Compliance reviews are conducted by checking the carrier’s compliance against acute and critical regulations. Points are assessed for noncompliance with these regulations. These acute and critical regulations, detailed specifically in Appendix B to Part 385 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), are grouped with similar regulations from various parts of the FMCSR to create factors, as shown below.

Factor 1 General = Parts 387 and 390
Factor 2
Driver = Parts 382, 383, and 391
Factor 3
Operational = Parts 392 and 395
Factor 4 Vehicle = Parts 393 and 396
Factor 5 Hazardous Materials = Parts 397, 171, 177, and 180
Factor 6
Accident Factor = Recordable Rate

Each factor is rated as satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory based on the number of points assessed in that factor. Then, the total number of conditional and unsatisfactory factor ratings is evaluated to propose an overall safety rating for the carrier. Once again, carriers receive one of three overall safety ratings: satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory.

Trends in Noncompliance
The FMCSA has published on its Web site the top 12 cited acute violations and the top 12 cited critical violations for calendar year 2006. These two charts follow. Violations resulting from noncompliance with regulations in three factors are highlighted:

Factor 2 Driver = Parts 382, 383, and 391 (highlighted in orange)
Factor 3
Operational = Parts 392 and 395 (highlighted in green)
Factor 4
Vehicle = Parts 393 and 396 (highlighted in blue)

Analysis of the Top 12 Cited Acute Violations:
Eight (66.7 percent) of the top 12 cited acute violations are from Factor 2, the driver. Five of these eight violations are a result of noncompliance with Department of Transportation (DOT) drug and alcohol testing regulations. Three of these eight violations are a result of noncompliance with driver qualification regulations and Commercial Drivers License (CDL) regulations.

Analysis of the Top 12 Cited Critical Violations:
Twelve (100 percent) of the top 12 cited critical violations are from Factors 2, 3, and 4 (driver, operational, and vehicle, respectively). Five of these violations (41.7 percent) are from Factor 3, operational, and are the result of noncompliance with drivers’ records of duty status and hours of service violations. Four of these violations (33.3 percent) are from Factor 2, the driver. Two are for noncompliance with DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations. Two are for noncompliance with driver qualification regulations. Three of these violations (25 percent) are from Factor 4, vehicle, and are the result of noncompliance with vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance regulations.

Summary of the Top 24 Cited Violations (Acute and Critical):
Of the 24 top cited violations, 20 (83.3 percent) are from Factors 2, 3, and 4 (driver, operational, and vehicle, respectively). Twelve of the 24 top cited violations (50 percent) are from Factor 2, driver. Seven of these violations are the result of noncompliance with DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations. Five of these violations are the result of noncompliance with driver qualification regulations and CDL regulations.

How Can Information Technology Help?
Technology brings a “systems approach” to addressing regulatory requirements. This allows the regulatory requirements to be engineered directly into business processes. Successfully completing these processes ensures regulatory compliance. This is significant: Regulatory expertise is built right into the compliance processes.

For the motor carrier line organization (operations), this shifts the focus from “knowing the regulatory requirements” to “ executing the process.” Further, technology adds the benefit of status reporting on key aspects of compliance, so senior management need never simply “trust” that these things are getting done correctly.

Accurate and current status in key compliance areas can be measured with technology. Accountable individuals can be recognized appropriately for their compliant or noncompliant performance. This technology is available through a variety of vendors and service providers that can integrate into carrier operations seamlessly to accomplish these critical compliance tasks. Further, these service providers are experts in their specialized fields. This allows the motor carrier to keep its support staff lean while leveraging the expertise of the service provider. For the carrier, this can often mean reduced operating and support costs while producing better results in the safety and compliance areas.

What is the difference between trusting that your carrier is in compliance and knowing exactly what your compliance status is without doubt on any given day? Wait long enough to find out, and FMCSA may help you define what that difference is, if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, a plaintiff ’s attorney and a jury may set the price for that difference for your company. The choice is yours.

This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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