Think you’re not subject to Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations because you use your truck on a jobsite, not the highway? You might need to think again. If you operate a vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds on a U.S. public road—even just to fill up with gas or move to another jobsite—you must have a DOT number. And if you have a DOT number, you’re subject to Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) enforcement. What does that mean? Caterpillar’s DOT compliance manager has some answers.
Q: What’s CSA and what does it measure?
It’s a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration initiative to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities related to commercial motor vehicles. CSA has been around for years, but a new enforcement and compliance model was rolled out in 2010 to help address safety problems before crashes occur. Now, anyone operating a vehicle with a DOT number is scored in seven basic categories:
- Unsafe driving
- Hours of service compliance
- Driver fitness
- Controlled substances/alcohol
- Vehicle maintenance
- Hazardous materials compliance
- Crash indicator
You’re scored based on data from roadside inspections, safety-based violations, state-reported crashes and the federal motor carrier census. (You can find details about all seven categories here.)
Q: What happens if I get a bad CSA score?
You’ll be hearing from the DOT. It generally starts with a warning letter, but can work its way up to an offsite or onsite investigation. Fines can be astronomical if you don’t comply, and the DOT can even shut down your business.
Q: How do I make sure I’m in compliance?
Start by making sure you can answer yes to these questions:
- Do you have a DOT number?
- Do you have someone on staff who coordinates your DOT program?
- Do you have policies and procedures in place to make sure you’re complying with DOT and CSA regulations?
- Do you have a resource for training your drivers to comply with DOT and CSA regulations?
- Are you keeping good records in case of an investigation?
Then, do some regular monitoring throughout the year to make sure you stay in compliance:
- Check your CSA scores online once a week.
- Check your drivers’ motor vehicle records at least once a year.
- Make sure your drivers’ DOT medical cards and driver qualification files are in order at least once a year.
- If you operate any vehicles over 26,000 pounds, make sure your drivers are enrolled in a DOT-approved drug and alcohol testing program.
Q: Where do I go for more information?
As always, you can turn to your Cat dealer for advice on what regulations apply to your business. The CSA website is a great resource, too—you can get all the details on the program, learn about your role as a truck owner or driver, view FAQs and even link directly to your CSA scores. (Truck owners in Canada, be sure to check out the Transport Canada website as regulations may differ.)
Compliance can be a scary word, but it doesn’t need to be. Just make sure you know your responsibilities and put some basic checkpoints in place. It’s better to spend a little time now making sure you’re in compliance than to deal with potentially large fines and lost uptime down the road.