Members of the public and officials in the transportation industry sometimes get the mistaken impression that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) does not hold drivers accountable for their actions because responsibility falls solely on employers. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the agency does not assign a driver rating per se, it operates several programs to ensure that commercial drivers operate their vehicles in a safe and responsible manner while on public roadways. At any rate, we’ll explain why there’s no driver rating.
The role of safety investigators and commercial drivers
Currently, the FMCSA does not use its Safety Management System (SMS) to assign ratings to individual drivers. However, its leadership understands the importance of driver accountability as part of its emphasis on compliance and enforcement. For this reason, safety investigators (SI) with the FMCSA automatically initiate an investigation on drivers who have serious violations during the process of investigating the motor carrier employing the driver.
Safety investigators also uses SMS as an internal evaluation tool for drivers who repeatedly demonstrate non-compliance with FMCSA regulations. After noting a violation, SIs follow up to ensure compliance. Drivers who do not correct issues for which they have received a poor safety evaluation risk the FMCSA issuing them a Notice of Claim or a Notice of Violation.
49 CFR, Part 385 and BASICs
The FMCSA manages a safety rating process for motor carriers described in 49 CFR, Part 385 of its regulations. SIs complete an onsite safety evaluation to determine the motor carrier’s safety ranking. It manages inspections for motor carriers under the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) program. The SAFER system is also an online resource for the public to find safety information about a specific motor carrier. Additionally, motor carriers and drivers can use SAFER to complete several administrative tasks such as registering for an identification number with the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and requesting a hazardous material permit.
The FMCSA also ranks motor carriers using a program called Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC), which is part of SMS. While BASICs rank motor carriers and not individual drivers, it helps to identify problem drivers and prioritize them for intervention from the FMCSA. Many of the criteria in the BASIC program refers specifically to drivers such as use of controlled substances and alcohol and fitness for the job. Drivers who fail to improve their behavior behind the wheel may be subject to termination by the motor carrier, fines by the FMCSA for more egregious violations, and cancellation of their commercial driver’s license.
Drivers are responsible for maintaining the proper insurance
The FMCSA requires that all commercial drivers carry the proper insurance. There are a lot of coverages out there, such as liability insurance. But a lot of drivers can also benefit from other types of policies such as hazardous materials, cargo, or garagekeepers depending on their unique situation. Get started with your insurance quotes by filling out our online form, giving us a call, or messaging us on LiveChat.