When it comes to trucking safety and compliance, fleet owners can count on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in ensuring fewer crashes involving large trucks and buses. The agency operates under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and its mission is to enforce truck safety regulations across all states.
While keeping the road safe may sound like a tall order for one agency, the FMCSA does its job well in ensuring that there are fewer injuries and fatalities by establishing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the regulations in the Federal Motor Carrier handbook. We’ll also discuss why it’s important to follow the FMCSA guidelines and the possible consequences that could happen if you don’t have the proper safety and compliance procedures in place.
What Are the FMCSA Guidelines?
The FMCSR is a set of rules and regulations that apply to any commercial vehicle involved in interstate commerce, which includes the trade of goods, transportation, and other activities implemented across the states.
You may be wondering: How do I determine if I am subject to FMCSA safety regulations?
If you’re involved in fleet operations in any way or capacity, then the rules apply to you. Whether you’re a driver, manager, or trainer, you need to follow the guidelines to ensure safety and smooth operation on and off the road.
The FMCSA rules are also applicable to any commercial vehicle that travels interstate in the following conditions:
- The vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 lbs. (4,537 kg) or more.
- The vehicle can carry nine to 15 passengers (including the driver) for compensation.
- The vehicle can accommodate 15 or more passengers (including the driver) with or without compensation.
- The vehicle, regardless of size, transports hazardous materials following the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. 5101 et seq.).
What if you operate a non-commercial vehicle? Are you considered as an exempt carrier? A common misconception is that the rules apply only to large commercial vehicles like trucks and tractor-trailers. However, if your vehicle weighs 10,001 pounds or greater, the FMCSA rules still apply to you. That means if you drive a private pick-up truck that hauls a tractor on a small axle trailer, then you need to follow the FMCSA guidelines.
Why Does FMCSA Compliance Matter?
Many trained commercial drivers are still unfamiliar with the FMCSA rules. Fleet managers need to educate drivers team members on the FMCSA guidelines in case the DOT conducts an audit. The FMCSR does not only cover the company’s financial responsibility and vehicle requirements but driver qualifications as well.
According to Section 391 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, employers are required to review driving records to see if a driver is capable of safe driving. Violations such as reckless driving and operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol are red flags that should not be ignored. Other infractions should also be considered as even minor transgressions can affect a company’s overall standing.
With the Safety Measurement System initiative, motor carriers can find online tools that will help drivers become road smart. The FMSCA also has a Motor Carrier Resource Center that can help managers improve their company’s safety performance.
What Happens if You Don’t Follow the FMCSA Guidelines?
Lack of awareness does not excuse a company from the penalties and litigations. Fleets that do not follow truck safety regulations usually have lower compliance scores. Companies with serious violations are more likely to be audited and required to pay hefty fines. In a worst-case scenario, the FMCSA may compel the company to close a business if there’s sufficient proof that you’re deficient in your safety training program.
Although the FMCSA is responsible for evaluating your compliance and safety program, trial lawyers may also nitpick on your processes for legal action. When a crash leads to death or injury, lawyers may cite poor safety practices as a reason for expensive settlements. On the other hand, if you’re going to file an insurance claim, insurance companies will ask for proof of compliance.
To protect your drivers and the company, you need to set up proactive solutions that help you stay on the good side of the law. Installing fleet safety cameras helps you keep track of everything that happens on the road. With Driveri®, drivers are warned of potential accidents through in-cab audio alerts, helping them stay vigilant. Should your company be called for an investigation, the high-quality recordings from your fleet safety camera can help exonerate drivers and protect the integrity of your company.
Safety compliance should be the top priority of fleet companies. With the FMCSR in place, operators can focus on improving their safety practice to ensure that there are fewer accidents and injuries on the road.
Netradyne partners with motor carriers in keeping the road safe through AI-driven fleet safety cameras. These dashcams give operators a clear picture of what happens on the road and help protect drivers and the integrity of your company.