This past week, several of our clients received a “Demand for Written Response” from the FMCSA. What made these demands unusual were that they were all for a violation that has been in the rule book but never really enforced, until now. The CSA safety measurement system allows the FMCSA to easily focus on any violation they determine important and automatically generate a focused audit in the form of these ”Demand” letters.
In this case, the violation is referenced as 49 CFR section 385.308(a)(7) which states: During the 90 days prior to (date of demand), the carrier operated the following commercial vehicles with a driver or vehicle out-of-service rate of 50% or more based on at least three inspections:
Each carrier receiving this demand letter had at least 3 inspections within the last 90 days. Within these inspections, at least half of the inspections contained a violation that put the vehicle and/or the driver out of service.
Carriers receiving this Demand for Written Response must supply an acceptable written response to the FMCSA within 30 days of the date of the letter of what they are going to do to fix the problems. Carriers not responding in writing by the deadline will be placed out of service. We have found that once placed out of service by the FMCSA, it takes a minimum of 30 days for them to review the case, make a favorable determination, and place the carrier back in service and that’s only if they find everything to their satisfaction.
Carriers need to realize that the CSA system has become very automatic in its process. Letters are generated automatically based on violation data that is accurate or not. Computers initiate Out of Service orders automatically if the response deadline is passed. The computer does not care about excuses even when very valid.
Carriers must become more proactive with FMCSA compliance. Once a carrier is caught up in the FMCSA system, it becomes very costly to get out.