FMCSA Sends First Wave of CSA Warning Letters!

FMCSA sends first wave of CSA warning letters
Friday, March 11, 2011 – Alabama Trucker, Ford Boswell

As of March 1, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has begun issuing its first wave of Compliance, Safety, Accountability program warning letters to motor carriers with deficient scores in one or more of the program’s Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories, or BASICs.

According to FMCSA officials, more than 6,000 letters have already gone out across the country and more than 200 have been mailed to carriers based in Alabama.

American Trucking Associations safety officials recently told Transport Topics that the FMCSA, over the next several months, will send more than 50,000 warning letters that alert carriers that their performance is substandard in at least one BASIC and that immediate action is needed to fall back into the agency’s grace.

This isn’t news to anyone in the industry, of course, but it can be stressful to find one of these letters in the mail. It should be remembered, however, that getting one of these letters isn’t a question of a carrier’s professionalism or commitment to safe operations. Rather, fleet managers should take heed and work immediately in the areas of their operation deemed deficient. Warning letters can be followed by off-site and/or on-site investigations if compliance doesn’t improve, and also be mindful that carriers who receive letters are subject to increased roadside inspections.

If you do get a letter, however, don’t panic. It will be clear and to the point about which BASIC(s) you need to improve. It will also outline consequences of continued safety problems. A warning letter provides instructions for accessing motor carrier safety data in the Safety Measurement System (SMS) as well as a point-of-contact for additional information.

In the meantime, the FMCSA has released a tip sheetto answers questions about a warning letter such as what it is; why you got one; and how you can respond. The tip sheet also explains how to review your specific violations and the ability to verify these, so you can help prevent them in the future.

Once you receive a letter, FMCSA recommends that you 1) Check your data through its SMS (FMCSA released the SMS to the public last December. Motor carriers can log in to the SMS with their U.S. DOT number and PIN to access safety data or log in to the FMCSA Portal); 2) Understand you safety assessment. The SMS calculates a measure for each BASIC. The measure is then used to assign a ranking or percentile that allows the safety behavior of a motor carrier to be compared with the safety behavior of motor carriers with similar operations and numbers of safety events; and 3) Take action immediately to correct your score. If you discover inaccuracies during the review process, submit a correction request through DataQs.

According to reports, the federal government has plans to sharply increase funding and staffing for the CSA program. Transport Topics recently reported that the Government Accountability Office requested $78 million for the program for fiscal 2012 – an increase of more than $68 million over CSA’s 2010 budget. This will help the agency monitor a broader swath of fleets. Under the old SafeStat system, FMCSA only managed to take action against 2 percent of carriers.

Your Alabama Trucking Association is also here to help you through the process. ATA’s staff has assisted several members reverse their rating in the old SafeStat system, and we can do the same with your CSA rating. Call us at 334-834-3983.

Ford Boswell is editor of Alabama Trucker. He also oversees communications, marketing and public affairs for the Alabama Trucking Association. Email him at

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