Stay DOT Compliant to Avoid Driver Safety Violations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has gone through numerous changes over the past few years in how they do business. The implementation of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Program was the most comprehensive change in the history for the Dept. of Transportation.

The fact is that the program is serving its primary purpose: Companies that obtain a new DOT number to avoid their poor SMS scores are classified as a “chameleon carrier” by FMCSA and are investigated. Bad companies can no longer hide and are being shut down daily. We will address what CSA is and how to establish a cost effective program with comprehensive countermeasures in the future.

Many contractors are surprised when they are having DOT Compliance Reviews (audits) as a result of violations involving not only CDL drivers, but also DOT non-CDL drivers. DOT non-CDL drivers operate trucks 10,001 lbs. up to 26,000 lbs. in interstate commerce. For example, an equipment mechanic driving a Ford F450 truck falls under FMCSA regulations as tools are considered laden. Even job superintendents driving crew cab pickups 10,001 lbs. or more are being cited for not having a DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificate in their possession.

The number one unsafe driving violation prompting compliance reviews is a driver failing to wear a seat belt. Another common violation in the industry includes a driver under 21 years of age operating a commercial motor vehicle 10,001 lbs. or more across a state line (which is interstate commerce).

Do you have a U.S. DOT Number? You fall under the jurisdiction of the FMCSA enforcement if you do. You should view your Safety Measurement System (SMS) scores at least once a month. I suggest to log you’re your carrier profile at This will bring up your MCS-150, which lists vehicles, drivers and Haz Mat inspections. It also lists mileage traveled, number of vehicles and drivers.

You are required to update this form every two years (or whenever changes occur) in order to remain compliant. Failure to do so can be punishable by up to $10,000-per-day fine for non-compliance and prompt a Compliance Review. Make sure it is up to date and accurate.

After checking your Carrier Snapshot, click on “SMS Results” in the top right corner in the blue box and review your Carrier Safety Management System. Half way down the page click on “Complete SMS” to view the entire profile. You can also go to the right side of the page and click on “History” to view monthly results for the past two years.

Contractors must implement an effective countermeasures program to deal with violations. They are on your record for two years and on your CDL Driver’s DSMS (Driver Safety Management System) for three years.

The point here is it does not take long to get into trouble with CSA, but it takes a long time to get out of trouble. High BASIC (Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories) scores result in increased inspections, focused or comprehensive Compliance Reviews and exposure to heavy fines and penalties.

We will discuss how to implement an effective CSA countermeasures program in a future article.

With 25 years' experience as a commercial vehicle and accident specialist, John Cheruka has performed thousands of loss control inspections, trained thousands of CDL drivers, road tested and qualified 2800 truck and bus drivers, and performed more than 800 OSHA inspection – among other transportation-related work. He will present "Complying with Federal Motor Vehicle Regs: They Affect You More than You Think at National Pavement Expo, Jan. 27-30 in Charlotte. NC. Reach him at P. O. Box 378, Gilbert, PA 18331- 0378; Phone (888) 546 – 5289 or visit