How to Meet the Evolving Safety Standards in Transportation

Is your trucking company committed to meeting transportation safety standards? With ongoing changes in regulations coming down from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), compliance is more important than ever.

Meeting these new standards doesn’t just keep you from getting in trouble with the law. Fatal crashes involving commercial vehicles increased 6% between 2015 and 2016, and you don’t want your company contributing to similar statistics in the future! 

By working to maintain compliance, you protect your employees and equipment from accidents, collisions, distractions— not to mention the constant threat of driver fatigue.

Since you can’t get away from the reality of risk when you run a transportation business, being proactive is your best strategy. Here’s what you need to know to meet and stay compliant with FMCSA safety guidelines.

Understanding Transportation Laws and Regulations

The FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) compliance and enforcement program has been around for years. But, the FMCSA continues to roll out updates in an effort to improve safety for truck drivers and the people with whom they share the road. To maintain standards, the FMCSA assigns scores based on seven Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs):

  • Unsafe driving, including speeding and following other vehicles too closely
  • Crash indicator, a 24-month history of accidents
  • Hours-of-service compliance, ensuring drivers aren’t on the road for more than 11 hours in any 14-hour period and take 10-hour breaks after each shift 
  • Vehicle maintenance, looking for problems like broken lighting or inadequate brakes
  • Controlled substances/alcohol, both possession and use
  • Hazardous materials compliance to prevent improper packaging and placarding
  • Driver fitness, including a valid license and medical examiner’s certificate

Regulations apply to any commercial motor vehicle taking part in interstate commerce and falling into one or more of these categories:

  • Gross weight or gross combined weight of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Used to transport nine to 15 people, driver included, in exchange for compensation
  • Used to transport 15 or more people, driver included, without compensation
  • Used to convey hazardous materials

If any of your vehicles meets these criteria, you and the drivers operating the vehicles are responsible for complying with the FMCSA regulations.

Penalties for Non-Compliance with Transportation Regulations

High BASICs scores are red flags for transportation companies and are likely to earn you a warning letter, which should spur you into action to improve safety practices in the area cited for poor performance. Failure to do so could mean getting flagged for more roadside inspections or onsite and offsite intervention investigations. The goal of this would be to determine the cause of the unacceptable BASICs score. Based on these investigations, you may receive a request to develop and implement a plan to put your company’s performance back on track.

What happens if you still can’t get those scores down? You wind up shelling out a fine, and so does the offending driver. Even a single violation can cost thousands of dollars; some could set you back tens of thousands. You can imagine how expensive this gets for companies that aren’t serious about maintaining safety!

However, money isn’t the only reason to make compliance a priority. Standards set by the FMCSA are meant to reduce the probability of accidents, injuries and death. In the transportation industry, these risks are inherently higher due to problems like distracted driving and driver fatigue. Indifference toward safety regulations can:

  • Put your business and drivers at risk
  • Increase costs associated with repairing and replacing equipment
  • Increase the likelihood of insurance claims
  • Result in higher driver turnover
  • Leave you vulnerable to legal action

None of this is good for the health of your business, and it doesn’t look too inviting to your customers, either. Nobody wants to entrust their goods to a company with a reputation for being reckless. So, regulatory compliance is crucial if you want to protect your business, employees and bottom line.

Transportation Safety Practices to Implement Right Now

The BASICs criteria from the FMCSA give a pretty clear picture of what safety looks like in the transportation industry. Using those seven categories as a foundation, you can create a compliance plan designed to keep you on target with all regulations and continually improve your company’s safety standards over time.

What should your plan include? To be as comprehensive as possible, consider these measures:

  • Update your company-wide safety rules and standards
  • Spend more time evaluating and screening candidates to ensure they meet driver qualifications
  • Invest in ongoing training, starting with onboarding for entry-level drivers and continuing throughout the employee life cycle
  • Improve training measures in the areas of defensive driving, as well as accident and distracted driving prevention
  • Create and maintain a regular schedule of inspection, maintenance and repair for all vehicles
  • Upgrade vehicles to newer models with better safety features and equipment
  • Invest in transportation technology to prevent collisions, track driving hours, log and monitor driver performance and minimize driving time through better route management
  • Strengthen weak areas with targeted training and education programs based on collected data
  • Implement and consistently enforce penalties for non-compliance

Although the basic point of a plan like this is to maintain FMCSA compliance, that shouldn’t be your end goal. Think about the drivers you employ and the businesses relying on you to get their goods from one place to another. Your safety plan should address both quality of life and quality of service to provide the best outcomes for employees and customers.

Prepare Your Business Financially to Meet New Standards

There’s no getting around the fact that compliance is expensive, but investing in proactive changes to your equipment, inspection procedures and training has benefits far beyond avoiding legal consequences. By adhering to the FMCSA regulations, you improve efficiency and safety among your drivers, lower the risk of accidents and fatalities and establish a reputation of being both careful and reliable.

All of this is worth the cost, and National Business Capital & Services is ready to help with a range of business loan options. Need better equipment? Check out an equipment financing plan. Want to get started with more detailed driver training? A line of credit can cover the cost of developing a new program. Get in touch with one of National’s business financing advisors to see how a loan may be able to help you implement compliance plans without disrupting your cash flow.

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About the Author, Matt Carrigan
Matt Carrigan is the Content Writer at National Business Capital & Services. He loves spending every day creating content to educate business owners across every industry about business growth strategies, and how they can access the funding they need!