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Motor carrier overview

The PUCO’s Transportation Department, Motor Carrier Division is committed to improving road safety for Ohioans by ensuring the equitable service of commercial motor carriers and the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) in Ohio. Motor carrier companies that transport for commerce and operate in Ohio must remain in compliance with all federal and state safety regulations.

The New Entrant Motor Carrier Safety Program

The New Entrant Motor Carrier Safety Program is designed to help new motor carrier companies understand the hundreds of complex federal and state regulations that motor carriers are required to follow.  

Once a new motor carrier registers with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and receives their U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) identification number they are considered a new entrant for 18 months. During this time, new entrant carriers are required to undergo and pass a safety audit conducted by a PUCO compliance officer.

The safety audit is an opportunity for the new entrant carrier to discuss any areas in which they may not be fully compliant. Insurance, driver qualifications and hours of service, inspection and maintenance of vehicles and transportation of hazardous materials are all areas of review. Once the audit is completed, results are sent to the FMCSA and the carrier remains on new entrant status until the end of the 18 month period.

Commercial motor vehicle inspection

The PUCO and the Ohio State Highway Patrol work to ensure that CMV’s are traveling safely throughout Ohio. PUCO inspectors regularly conduct roadside safety inspections on CMVs and follow a thorough process to make sure both the driver and CMV are compliant with state and federal regulations. Vehicles and drivers that fail to meet these regulations may be placed out of service and cannot continue operating until they comply with the regulations.

If no critical vehicle violations are discovered during the inspection, the inspector issues a decal from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) excluding the vehicle from another inspection for up to three months. A notice will be sent from the PUCO regarding any alleged violations and fines within 90 days of the inspection. Depending on the violation issued, fines could either be assessed to the driver or motor carrier. Passenger and hazardous materials carriers are also subject to inspections.

Motor carrier compliance reviews

PUCO inspectors preform on-site 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 applicable federal and state regulations.

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. The rating can be satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory.

Civil Forfeitures Program

A civil forfeiture, or fine, is issued when a motor carrier, driver or hazardous materials shipper is found to be in violation of a transportation regulation.

Prior to 1988, transportation violations were issued by local courts. Motor carriers had little incentive to comply with safety regulations because violations were only issued against drivers. The violations were also not included in the carrier’s safety record, which made it difficult to identify carriers with a pattern of violations. As a consistent means to track safety violations and issue penalties, the PUCO was given authority to assess civil forfeitures for violations involving highway transportation and hazardous materials in 1988. In 1995, Ohio law authorized the PUCO to assess civil forfeitures for all motor carrier safety violations.

Penalties are assessed either as a result of safety violations detected in a roadside inspection or as a result of a safety audit. The PUCO uses a procedure comparable to the recommended fine schedule issued by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) - an organization representing motor carriers, drivers and regulators - to determine the civil forfeitures assessed for non-hazardous materials violations discovered during a driver/vehicle inspection. The CVSA is an organization representing motor carriers, drivers and regulators. More than 35,000 penalties are assessed each year, resulting in approximately $2.5 million being credited to Ohio’s general revenue fund.