Interventions are the final stage in the three-step process used by the FMCSA to improve fleet safety standards under CSA 2010. It is used only where issues are uncovered that could lead to potential hazards or are already a problem.

Of the more than 500,000 carriers registered with the FMCSA, it is reported that around 10% will receive some type of intervention when CSA goes live on 5 December, 2010. In most cases this will be a warning letter but can include anything from fines and penalties to Onsite Comprehensive Investigations, something which carriers try to avoid at all costs.

CSA 2010 maintains high safety standards

Under SafeStat, the FMCSA would initiate an onsite compliance review to deal with unsafe carriers. CSA 2010 now means the FMCSA has some flexibility in determining how to tackle fleets that are in violation, giving them a number of intervention options to promote better safety standards.

However, the FMCSA wants to make it clear that this shouldn’t be construed that CSA 2010 is any softer than the previous SafeStat system. When required, the FMCSA will employ whatever measures, fines, penalties or onsite reviews, to maintain carrier compliance.

The emphasis though has moved to more carrot, and less stick, with a focus on developing cooperative safety plans, that spell out for fleets issues they need to address to stay in the FMCSA’s good books.

Range of intervention options available

The FMCSA will use a number of intervention options at its disposal to correct what it views as deficiencies in a fleet’s safety standards. Where a CSA intervention threshold is breached, perhaps determined by a routine roadside inspection, the FMCSA will begin a process of determining what intervention to employ.

Early contact

  • Warning letter — A warning letter is the first step in alerting a carrier to a violation of one of the seven BASIC measurements used in evaluating a fleet’s safety risk. It is simply a formal notification that the carrier is on notice and will be monitored, with this violation being incorporated into their monthly score. A warning letter doesn’t require any response from the carrier; it simply outlines the consequences of ignoring the issue as well giving the carrier a point of contact at the FMCSA.

  • Carrier Access to Safety Data and Measurement — Fleets can access their BASICs scores including any inspections or violations that were used to determine that rating. If a fleet disagrees with the records listed, the information can be challenged via the FMCSA’s DataQs system. It is important to keep records up-to-date since details are available to the public, including shippers and insurers (there are some limitations with what information is made public, including details of the driver’s name and the BASIC score).

  • Targeted Roadside InspectionFMCSA inspectors will be advised of a carrier’s specific safety problems and will monitor these aspects at any roadside inspection locations that have access to the fleet’s SMS information.

  • Offsite Investigation — The carrier needs to provide the FMCSA with documentation that can be used to determine what the root causes of a fleet’s safety violations are and may include toll receipts or drug testing records. If documentation isn’t provided the fleet may be required to undergo an onsite investigation.

  • Onsite Investigation – Focused — This is when a carrier is deficient in two or less BASICs and it is determined that an investigation into just these areas is required. This differs from a comprehensive investigation, which covers every aspect of a fleet’s operations.

  • Onsite Investigation – Comprehensive — Used when a fleet has major, and ongoing, safety issues that need addressing, such as three or more BASIC violations, or a fatal accident or complaint.



Depending on what an investigation reveals, one or more of the following intervention actions may be taken by the FMCSA.

  • Cooperative Safety Plan (CSP) — A voluntary measure where the carrier and the FMCSA work together to create an action plan to address safety issues, using a standard template.

  • Notice of Violation (NOV) — A NOV is a notice issued when safety violations are serious enough to require formal action but not incur a fine or when a violation can be, or is expected to be, corrected immediately. A carrier must respond by either challenging the notice or taking the necessary corrective action.

  • Notice of Claim (NOC) — A NOC is used when the violations are serious enough to issue a fine against the carrier.

  • Operations Out-of-Service Order (OOS) — This is an order issued to a carrier to stop all vehicle operations.

Stay on top of fleet safety

The specific intervention taken by the FMCSA will obviously be determined by a number of factors including the carrier’s cooperation, past record of compliance and efforts made to implement a safe working environment.

Right from the start it’s a good idea to install good management systems that help you stay on top of fleet safety including HOS reporting and maintenance schedules. Time spent getting your fleet in order now will prove to be a wise investment as the FMCSA works hard to tackle unsafe fleet practices.