By Dave Osiecki, President of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting LLC and Safety Consultant to PeopleNet
In late June 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sent its CSA “Corrective Action Plan Report to Congress” in which the Agency communicated its plans to adopt a series of recommendations to improve the 8-year old CSA program. The bulk of the 10-page report to Congress focused on six recommendations made by the National Academy of Sciences in 2017, and how FMCSA plans to implement each of them. However, tucked away at the bottom of page 3 of the report was this CSA recommendation to FMCSA, made by the USDOT’s Office of Inspector General (OIG): “Develop a comprehensive plan to fully implement CSA enforcement interventions in the remaining 41 states. The plan should include an estimated completion date and milestones for releasing Sentri software, developing and delivering training, and using the enforcement interventions.” FMCSA’s response to this recommendation, along with a few others from the OIG, was simply, “The FMCSA implemented these recommendations.”
This caught my attention, so I contacted an FMCSA official in Washington DC about it. Here’s what I learned.
Since the beginning of CSA in 2010, “off-site reviews” have been used by FMCSA and some state partners in only nine states. Recently, FMCSA staff in a tenth state began using the off-site review process as well. A list of these ten states is found at the bottom of this article. Nationwide implementation of CSA off-site reviews has not yet occurred for a number of reasons including, (1) the lack of a model off-site training curriculum and, (2) a good software program designed to uniformly receive and process compliance documents and related materials from carriers. FMCSA is now nearing completion of its new investigation software program and, when done, FMCSA and state safety auditors in the remaining 40 States will be trained on how to use it to administer an effective off-site review process.
To better explain this process and what it might means for carriers, below are the ‘Five Ws’ (who, what, when, where and why) for off-site reviews.
What is an Off-site Review? – An off-site review is a focused ‘DOT investigation’ that involves a narrow request for documents from the carrier (and potentially from third parties), a transfer of these documents to an investigator, followed by an in-depth review of these documents and other available information by an investigator to determine the nature and extent of safety compliance in a specific compliance area (e.g., hours of service).
Who Conducts Them? – Off-site reviews are conducted by FMCSA safety investigators, and state agency investigators in some states. However, as of August 2018, this review process is used in only ten states.
Where Do They Occur? – Off-site reviews are performed in the office of the FMCSA (or state) safety investigator in the ten states listed at the bottom of this article.
When Are They Initiated? – Off-site reviews are typically initiated when a carrier has one or two CSA BASICs requiring investigation. They can be conducted in most compliance areas (e.g., driver fitness, hours of service compliance, controlled substances/alcohol) but cannot, by policy, be conducted on a carrier with an elevated vehicle maintenance BASIC. Also, by policy, off-site reviews are not conducted on motorcoach operations.
Why Are They Used? – When compared to on-site reviews (commonly called compliance reviews), off-site reviews are a more efficient auditing process that saves time and expense for the investigator and for FMCSA (or the state agency), saves time for the involved carrier, and minimizes the potential business and operational disruption that often occurs during on-site reviews/audits (comprehensive or focused).
When fully implemented by FMCSA and its state partners, it’s easy to see that many carriers who have not been audited or had an enforcement intervention in the recent past (or perhaps ever), could be facing one of these CSA off-site enforcement interventions.
Below is a list of the ten states in which off-site reviews are currently being conducted by FMCSA or the state partner agency:
Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey
Have questions or want to know more? If so, call or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202 728 2851 for additional details. Likewise, be sure to check out PeopleNet’s ELD Resource Center to stay up-to-date on the latest information you need to keep your fleet safe and compliant.