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Majority of 2021 Ratings Were Conditional
Mariah Barr
6 mins read

If you did not face a compliance audit last year, consider yourself lucky. Even though the total audits conducted in 2021 were down by 17% in comparison to 2018’s numbers (as shown in data from the federal Analysis and Information system), most of all audits conducted in 2021 concluded with motor carriers getting a Conditional rating. 

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This is a new finding in comparison to previous years. Conversely, from 2018-2020, most of the ratings from the FMCSA were Satisfactory, if a rating was given at all. Fewer audits might sound like music to any motor carrier’s ears, but if the trend continues in the current direction with more Conditional ratings being given, the likelihood of receiving the highly sought-after Satisfactory rating will only become slimmer.  

How can carriers counter this seemingly unfair situation they’ve found themselves in? By mustering up their approach to safety compliance and recordkeeping, of course. 

According to the FMCSA, “a conditional safety rating means a motor carrier does not have adequate safety controls in place to ensure compliance with the safety fitness standard that could result in occurrences listed in 49 CFR 385.5 (a) through (k).”  

This chapter focuses on numerous safety risks motor carriers could be taking, including commercial driver’s license standard violations, the use of unqualified drivers, and failure to maintain accident registers and copies of accident reports, among others. Each one of these incidents is completely avoidable, especially when a partnership with a DOT screening and file management provider is established. 

So, what were the two most common critical violations issued with carrier audits in 2021? According to FMCSA data, they were:  

1) Not using the appropriate method to record hours of service
2) False reports of records of duty status 

Maintaining an updated driver’s log not only prevents these violations and is required by the DOT, but it’s also an efficient way to ensure your drivers are not fatigued – one of the major risks noted in the FMCSA’s safety fitness standard. Most violations can also be avoided by having a proper recordkeeping solution in place. 

Other prominent critical violations included failing to maintain driver qualification files on each driver and failure to do random drug tests at the applicable annual rate. Any of these violations can result in expensive fines and even endanger your drivers and other motorists sharing the road with them. 

Long-Term Consequences of Conditional Ratings 

It’s important to note that final safety ratings are available to the public on the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) website, which means consumers and shippers may use them to decide which motor carriers they should hire. Motor carriers with Satisfactory ratings will most likely appear more reliable than those with lower ratings to anyone looking for a carrier to trust with their goods. 

We’ve written about how difficult it can be to bounce back from a Conditional or Unsatisfactory rating, and the process is still just as grueling. Even if a carrier has produced the required safety management plan that addresses their specific violations and put in the necessary measures to meet the compliance standards in question, it does not mean the FMCSA will consent to a new audit in order to adjust their safety rating. Carriers can face the repercussions of their ratings for years to come. 

Don’t Put Your Safety Rating at Risk 

Preparing for DOT audits before they happen is one of the easiest ways to reduce the chance of failing them. Having an electronic recordkeeping system in place helps ensure the most up-to-date versions of your driver documents are available in the event of an offsite audit. There’s no need to panic and spend countless hours looking for important paperwork – everything the officer needs to review will be organized and ready to go. 

Get Your FREE DOT Audit Survival Guide Today! 

You don’t have to receive a Conditional safety rating from an audit to see why your company should avoid the dangers noted in the FMCSA’s safety fitness standard. However, if you are one of the many carriers that have been given a Conditional or even an Unsatisfactory rating, the compliance specialists at Foley can help you get back on track. We’ve helped many motor carriers by developing DOT corrective action plans that pinpoint their specific compliance downfalls. 

Remember, Foley can help you build a safe, experienced fleet of drivers and continue to manage all the safety requirements that go hand in hand with being a successful and fully compliant motor carrier. Whether you’re in the very beginning of the hiring process or you’re looking for support with your safety rating, we have the right solutions for you. 

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