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Motor carrier compliance reviews

One of the motor carrier regulatory duties of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is to conduct compliance reviews of motor carriers to ensure they are operating safely and responsibly. These reviews are conducted in conjunction with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). PUCO inspectors perform compliance reviews on interstate and intrastate motor carriers, reviewing documentation of areas such as hours of service, vehicle maintenance, financial responsibility and driver qualifications. These reviews allow the PUCO to see if a motor carrier is operating in compliance with the applicable federal and state regulations. The federal motor carrier safety regulations, or FMCSRs, are set by the FMCSA, and the PUCO conducts compliance reviews in Ohio on behalf of this agency.

The compliance review process

The PUCO contacts Ohio motor carriers by telephone and letter to notify them when they are required to undergo a compliance review. PUCO staff works with motor carriers to schedule a time for the compliance review, which is typically held at the motor carrier’s headquarter offices.

The compliance review consists of several steps that allow the inspector to thoroughly evaluate the motor carrier operation.

  1. The compliance review starts with an opening interview, conducted by the PUCO inspector with the highest ranking official from the motor carrier. During the opening interview, the inspector will explain the purpose of the visit and the various records that will be reviewed. Throughout the compliance review, the inspector will request a variety of company records. Any records that are maintained at the location where the compliance review is held must be produced immediately. The PUCO realizes that some motor carriers have multiple offices, and may keep some records at other locations. In these instances, requested records that are kept at other locations must be made available to the inspector within 48 hours of the request.
  2. As part of the opening interview, the inspector may request a tour of the carrier’s facilities and to talk with other employees of the company that are responsible for overseeing safety, financial or other areas of regulatory compliance.
  3. Once the opening interview is complete, the inspector will conduct an accident review. This process will evaluate the procedure the motor carrier has in place to handle accidents. During this time, the inspector will ask questions about what the motor carrier has done to prevent repeat accidents, and reviews records from the previous 12 month period.
  4. Financial responsibility records are evaluated to ensure that the motor carrier is carrying the required cargo insurance, property broker’s license, and other minimum levels of financial responsibility.
  5. A maintenance review is conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the vehicle maintenance operations and to determine if the vehicles are in safe condition. The inspector will look at the vehicle maintenance files, vehicle inspections, and out of service calculations from the previous 12 months.
  6. The inspector also verifies the company’s procedures for hiring drivers, testing for alcohol and other controlled substances, and keeping the record of drivers up to date. This review ensures that drivers employed by the company have a commercial drivers' license and are qualified to operate a motor vehicle.
  7. A review of the hours of service records for drivers employed by the carrier is also performed. Records for the previous six months are reviewed to determine if any violations occurred.
  8. If the motor carrier transports hazardous materials, a review of the shipping papers, material safety data sheets, registration, and incident reports for carrying hazardous materials will be conducted. The inspector will also interview employees dealing with hazardous materials to make sure they have the proper training and are following the correct procedures.
  9. At the conclusion of the compliance review, the inspector will close the review and use the findings to issue an overall safety rating for the motor carrier operation.

Safety ratings

A compliance review results in a safety rating for the motor carrier. This rating can be satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory.

Satisfactory rating

A motor carrier that receives a satisfactory rating is found to be in compliance with the applicable FMCSRs, state regulations and hazardous materials regulations, if applicable.

Carriers with a satisfactory rating also are found to have adequate safety management controls. The FMSCA will administer a satisfactory rating no later than 60 days following the completion of the compliance review.

Unsatisfactory rating

If a carrier is found to be unsatisfactory, the FMCSA will issue the notification no later than 45 days following the compliance review. Motor carriers receiving an unsatisfactory rating have their operating authority suspended 15 days after the date of the unsatisfactory notice. An out-of-service order is imposed, which prohibits the carrier from operating any motor vehicles in the United States, unless the carrier can prove errors in the compliance review within 10 days of the date of the notice.

Within 30 days of receiving the suspension order, the motor carrier must make the necessary
corrections specified in the order to prevent the provisional operating authority from being revoked. A follow-up review may take place to ensure that all necessary corrective actions were taken.

Conditional rating

A conditional rating is issued by the FMCSA no later than 45 days following a compliance review. When a conditional rating is issued, the motor carrier’s operating authority is revoked and an out-of-service order is imposed unless the carrier takes the necessary corrective action within 30 days of receiving the order. A follow-up review may take place to ensure that corrective actions have been taken by the motor carrier.