FMCSA: Definition, FAQ and More

What is FMCSA and What Does FMCSA Stand For

Established within the U.S. Department of Transportation in January 2000, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was created to help prevent commercial vehicle–related injuries and fatalities. The FMCSA has several duties, including the development of commercial motor vehicle testing and licensing standards; collecting, analyzing, and distributing data on motor carrier safety; operating safety improvement programs; removing high-risk carriers from the roadways; and providing states with funding for roadside inspection programs.

FMCSA Registration

As part of its duties, the FMCSA monitors and verifies compliance for all motor carriers, including both for-hire and non-exempt commercial carriers. These companies are subject to registration requirements for both safety and commercial regulation. To begin the process, companies need to define whether they are a motor carrier, broker, intermodal equipment provider, cargo tank facility, shipper and/or freight forwarder operation. After successfully completing the registration process, fleet obtain a USDOT Number and are subject to all FMCSA safety requirements.

FMCSA License and Insurance

Aside for applying for operating authority, motor carrier, freight forwarder, and broker applicants must also show file specific insurance and legal process agent documents before the FMCSA will approve the application. Some examples of the necessary documents include proof of public liability insurance, cargo insurance, and the designation of a process agent, a company representative that may be served court papers for any proceedings brought against the motor carrier.

FMCSA Inspection Requirements

According to FMCSA regulations, every motor carrier and intermodal equipment provider is required to regularly inspect, repair, and maintain all commercial motor vehicles in their fleet. The systems, components, and accessories of each vehicle must be in safe and proper working order, including the frame and frame assemblies, suspension systems, axles and attaching parts, wheels and rims, and steering systems. These carriers are also required to maintain records of these inspections for at least 30 consecutive days, and the records must also be retained at the vehicle’s location for one year and kept for six months after the vehicle is sold, traded in, or scrapped.

FMCSA Safety Audit and FMCSA

Under Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA), FMCSA’s data-driven safety compliance and enforcement program, motor carriers are subject to audits if they are deemed an unsafe carrier. Using the CSA Safety Measurement System (SMS), analysis is performed on data from both roadside inspections and crash reports during the previous two years, as well as investigation data, to identify unsafe carriers through either a poor safety performance or compliance issues. After these fleets are identified, investigators employ interventions to first contact, then assist with motor carriers to improve their safety performance or resolve compliance problems. The investigators use a Safety Fitness Determination rating system to define the “safety fitness” of these motor carriers.

The SMS is updated monthly with information that is separated into seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories, or BASICs, which include unsafe driving, crash indicators, hours-of-service compliance, vehicle maintenance, controlled substances/alcohol, hazardous materials compliance, and driver fitness. Once the information is loaded into the system, FMCSA groups these carriers with others that have a similar safety rating and then ranks them so they can then assign them to a percentile to decide which carriers need immediate interventions.

FMCSA Compliance Checklist

After gaining operating authority from FMCSA, fleets must follow other compliance requirements, including:

  • the establishment of drug and alcohol policies
  • registering drivers for random drug testing
  •  filing the results of pre-employment drug tests for all drivers
  •  requesting information from FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for previous records of driver drug or alcohol problems
  • completing pre- and post-trip inspections on all vehicles
  • retaining qualification records and safety performance histories for each driver
  • documenting hours-of-service records for all drivers, and regularly monitoring and auditing these records
  • ensuring the use of an electronic logging device when required

How Does LifeSaver Mobile Help Fleets with FMCSA (Regulations / Violations etc.)?

LifeSaver Mobile’s distracted driving prevention technology helps prevent violations and fines outlined by the FMCSA. We help prevent fleet drivers from committing many 6.3.12 Common Violations including:

  • “speeding” (392.2)
  • “Using a hand-held mobile telephone while operating a CMV” (392.82)
  • “Driving a commercial motor vehicle while texting” (392.90(a))

Costs of FMCSA violations associated with mobile violations to companies go on the record and are expensive, ranging per driver from $2,750 to $11,000 –raising the need for mobile distraction prevention behind the wheel.