One of the motor carrier regulatory duties of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is to conduct compliance reviews of motor carriers to ensure they are operating safely and responsibly. These reviews are conducted in conjunction with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). PUCO inspectors perform compliance reviews on interstate and intrastate motor carriers, reviewing documentation of areas such as hours of service, vehicle maintenance, financial responsibility, hazardous materials, and driver qualifications. These reviews allow the PUCO to see if a motor carrier is operating in compliance with the applicable federal and state regulations. The federal motor carrier safety regulations (FMCSRs) and hazardous materials regulations (HMRs) are set by the FMCSA.
The compliance review process
The PUCO contacts Ohio motor carriers by telephone, letter, or in person to notify them when they are required to undergo a compliance review. PUCO investigators work with motor carriers to schedule a time for the compliance review, which is typically held at the motor carrier’s headquarter offices. In some cases the compliance review begins immediately upon initial contact with the motor carrier.
The compliance review consists of several steps that allow the inspector to thoroughly evaluate the motor carrier operation.
- The compliance review starts with an opening interview, conducted by the PUCO investigator with the highest ranking official from the motor carrier. During the opening interview, the investigator will explain the purpose of the visit and the various records that will be reviewed. Throughout the compliance review, the investigator will request a variety of company records. Any records that are maintained at the location where the compliance review is held must be produced immediately. The PUCO realizes that some motor carriers have multiple offices, and may keep some records at other locations. In these instances, requested records that are kept at other locations must be made available to the inspector within 48 hours of the request.
- As part of the opening interview, the investigator may request a tour of the carrier’s facilities and to talk with other employees of the company that are responsible for overseeing safety, financial or other areas of regulatory compliance.
- Once the opening interview is complete, the investigator may conduct an accident review. This process will evaluate the procedure the motor carrier has in place to handle accidents. During this time, the inspector will ask questions about what the motor carrier has done to prevent repeat accidents, and reviews records from the previous 12 month period.
- Financial responsibility records are evaluated to ensure that the motor carrier is carrying the required cargo insurance, property broker’s license, and other minimum levels of financial responsibility.
- A maintenance review may be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the vehicle maintenance operations and to determine if the vehicles are in safe condition. The investigator will look at the vehicle maintenance files, vehicle inspections, and out of service calculations from the previous 12 months.
- The investigator may also verify the company procedures for hiring drivers, testing for alcohol and other controlled substances, and keeping the records of drivers up to date. This review ensures that drivers employed by the company have a commercial drivers' license and are qualified to operate a motor vehicle.
- A review of the hours of service records for drivers employed by the carrier may also be performed. Records for the previous six months are reviewed to determine if any violations occurred.
- If the motor carrier transports hazardous materials, a review of the shipping papers, material safety data sheets, registration, and incident reports for carrying hazardous materials will be conducted. The investigator will also interview employees dealing with hazardous materials to make sure they have the proper training and are following the correct procedures.
- At the conclusion of the compliance review, the investigator will close the review and use the findings to issue an overall safety rating for the motor carrier operation.
A compliance review may result in a safety rating for the motor carrier. This rating can be Satisfactory, Conditional or Unsatisfactory.
Satisfactory means that a motor carrier has in place functioning adequate safety management controls to meet the safety fitness standard prescribed in 49 CFR section 385.5.
Conditional means that a motor carrier does not have all adequate safety management controls in place to ensure compliance with the safety fitness standard. However the carrier may continue to operate as they improve their compliance by taking corrective actions where deficiencies have been identified. A follow-up review may take place to ensure that corrective actions have been taken by the motor carrier.
Unsatisfactory means that a motor carrier does not have enough adequate safety management controls in place to ensure compliance with the safety fitness standard. If a carrier is found to be Unsatisfactory, the FMCSA will require the carrier to submit documentation of corrective action within 45 to 60 days, depending on the type of carrier operation. If a carrier fails to submit corrective action, an out-of-service order is imposed, which prohibits the carrier from operating any motor vehicles in the United States.