DOT To “Rate” Truckers In The Not-So-Distant Future


Driver ratings are coming! Based on a new five-year plan by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency will “pursue a methodology to assess the safety fitness of drivers to further identify unsafe drivers who should not be in the industry.” The recent advent of CSA 2010 placed a mere “score” on drivers and motor carriers, but now the FMCSA aims to ratchet things up a notch by using those scores to “rate” drivers, and those who fall short of whatever limits they set, will be “removed” from operation.

The FMCSA has invited the public to comment on this new plan that will serve as a five-year guide to achieving its mission to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large commercial trucks and interstate buses. The plan says driver violation information “will be provided to carriers more expeditiously” through a better Pre-employment Screening Program and an Employee Notification System. Additionally, the agency will also “pursue a methodology to assess the safety fitness of drivers to further identify unsafe drivers who should NOT be in the industry.”

The new plan, called the “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 2011 – 2016 Strategic Plan: Raising the Safety Bar,” is shaped by three core principles: 1) raise the bar to enter the motor carrier industry; 2) maintain high safety standards to remain in the industry; and 3) remove high-risk carriers, drivers and service providers from operation. The plan also includes language that suggests that the agency would seek expanded authority over “those industry segments that may have an impact on the CMV transportation lifecycle” – in other words, shippers and brokers, at least.

Well, ladies and gentleman, in the next five years you are all going to see some big changes in the industry. The days of the strong back and weak mind are gone. I can clearly see that the drivers of tomorrow will need to show documented evidence of certain training to their future employers. It won’t happen for awhile, but this is going to be a hot topic for years to come, for sure. Keep your eyes open for future articles on this subject. Your entire future in trucking may depend on it!


In the past few weeks, we at NTA have received complaints from members regarding certain companies sending them intimidating faxes stating, “3rd Compliance Notice. We have sent previous notices to you with no response.” Due to these gorilla marketing tactics from sales outfits trying to scare people into responding, the FMCSA recently posted the following warning on their website:

“FMCSA has issued a warning alerting motor carriers to certain attempts from some companies using aggressive marketing tactics to sell supervisor training to employers who may be subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s drug and alcohol testing requirements. Please note that the FMCSA is not familiar with these companies nor the training they are offering. 49 CFR 382.603 requires supervisors of CDL drivers to take 60 minutes of training on the symptoms of alcohol abuse and another 60 minutes of training on the symptoms of controlled substances use. The purpose is to qualify supervisors for determining when reasonable suspicion testing is needed. The FMCSA does not certify trainers or training companies, nor does it pre-approve the curriculum presented. Employers are responsible for meeting the training requirement of 49 CFR 382.603, including ensuring that any training company/entity that they purchase training from provides training in the physical, behavioral, speech, and performance indicators of probable alcohol misuse and use of controlled substances. It is up to the employer to select which training to attend, keeping in mind the aforementioned guidelines.”


Last month we talked about truck weights. This month, I thought it would be informative to go over your rig’s vehicle identification number, more commonly called the VIN. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an agency within the USDOT, passed rules during the 1980’s requiring all road vehicles to have a 17 character Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). These rules established the VIN system used today, providing a unique number for every vehicle manufactured.

A VIN consists of a series of numbers and letters, each with a very specific purpose. The 1st character identifies the country in which the vehicle was manufactured; the 2nd character identifies the manufacturer; the 3rd character identifies the make and type of vehicle; the 4th through 8th characters identify vehicle features (for trucks, this includes model or line, series, chassis, cab type, engine type, brake system, and the gross vehicle weight rating); the 9th character ensures VIN accuracy as a check digit, calculated according to a specified mathematical computation after all of the other characters in the VIN have been determined by the vehicle’s manufacturer; the 10th character identifies the vehicle model year; the 11th character identifies the plant of manufacture; and the 12th through 17th characters represent a sequentially-assigned number given by the manufacturer in the production process.

According to the regulations, found in 49 CFR 565, any two vehicles manufactured within a 30-year period may not have the same VIN. The VIN can be used to track recalls, thefts, insurance coverage and registrations. The location of the VIN varies, but in later year models the most common places are on the drivers’ door or post, the firewall, or on the left instrumentation/dash plate by the window.


The FMCSA recently stated that it will NOT meet a court-imposed deadline to issue new hours-of-service regulations for drivers of property-carrying vehicles until next month. According to the latest status report filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the FMCSA now intends to publish a final rule by October 26, 2011, nearly three months later than originally scheduled. The Agency says the delay was necessary due to its need to collect additional public input on several studies being used in the rulemaking process.

About Wayne Schooling

Wayne Schooling has been in the transportation business since 1962. Starting out as a driver, Wayne later made the switch to management. Over the years, he has accumulated 22 various awards and honors, been involved with 6 professional affiliations, has spoken at several lectures, and earned 3 professional diplomas. Wayne, who has written for 10-4 Magazine since 1994, is currently President Emeritus of the NorthAmerican Transportation Association (NTA).