In advance of the 2022 Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) filing window, the UCR Board made an announcement recently updating the definition of what qualifies as a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) and refined exactly who needs a UCR to operate legally in interstate commerce. The new definition says all commercial motor vehicles that operate in interstate commerce are now required to have a valid Unified Carrier Registration. But what qualifies as a commercial motor vehicle? Here is how the UCR Board defines it – as well as what has changed with the new definition.
The new definition specifies that the vehicle has a gross vehicle weight (GVW) rating or gross vehicle weight of at least 10,001 pounds, whichever is greater. The UCR Board has also added that eligible vehicles include those with connected trailing equipment having a gross combination weight (GCW) rating or gross combination weight of at least 10,001 pounds, whichever is greater. In addition, if the vehicle carries placarded amounts of hazardous materials, regardless of vehicle weight, or the vehicle is designed to carry more than 10 passengers (the UCR Board has added that the driver is included in this number), a valid UCR is needed to legally operate.
While these changes may not be hugely significant, it’s important for carriers and drivers to know that whether or not they needed a UCR in the past, they should ensure that the new definitions don’t now make them liable. Otherwise, they could be found non-compliant and subject to fines, violations, and vehicle detainment. What exactly is the UCR? The Unified Carrier Registration is a state revenue-sharing program and interstate compact established by federal law in 2005 that requires all operators of commercial vehicles who are involved in interstate and international travel to register and pay annual fees, which are collected through the UCR program, and used to fund the enforcement of safety and compliance programs throughout the country.
Companies who arrange the shipment of goods, such as brokers, freight forwarders and leasing outfits, are subject to UCR payments, as is any company with a federal MC number. Motor carriers must file their UCR for the upcoming year no later than December 31 of the preceding year. So, for 2022, payments must be made no later than December 31, 2021. Filing opens in the fall, with payment amounts based on the size of a carrier’s fleet. It’s important to note that leased vehicles under a carrier’s DOT number are also their responsibility.
If you don’t file your annual UCR, and your drivers are caught moving freight over state lines, enforcement officials could detain your vehicles, and you could be required to pay additional fines and penalties – which, depending on the state, can be as high as $5,000 for first-time offenders. Now is the time to make sure that your UCR registration is ready to carry you into 2022.
Moving on to our next topic, let’s look at what you need to know about FMCSA Intervention Thresholds. No doubt, as you know, there are many rules and regulations to comply with in the transportation industry. From federal regulations to various state regulations, from record-keeping to the physical condition of your drivers, but one of your most significant concerns should be Intervention Thresholds. Why? Because these are strong indicators of crash risk, and therefore your safety fitness as a motor carrier.
Exceeding Intervention Thresholds can put you on the FMCSA’s priority list and result in fines and violations. If they are bad enough, and worse yet if they persist, they could even put you out of business. This is one reason why your truck insurance is high. Simply because most of your Safety Measurement System (SMS) BASIC scores are available to the general public, your competitors, and your insurance carrier. So quit going around waving a red flag in front of the bull (FMCSA) and do something to lower your scores. But first, you must learn how to keep score, if you are going to win this game!
Intervention Thresholds are based on seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) percentiles. These are set by the FMCSA under the agency’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scoring program. These seven BASICs include: 1) Unsafe Driving (speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, inattention, or failure to use seat belts); 2) Hours of Service Compliance; 3) Crash Indicator (history of crash involvement); 4) Driver Fitness (invalid license, medically unfit to operate a CMV); 5) Controlled Substances and/or Alcohol (use or possession); 6) Vehicle Maintenance (failure to make required repairs); and 7) Hazardous Materials Compliance (leaking containers, improper packaging and/or placarding).
Based on the relation to crash risk, the FMCSA has determined the following Intervention Thresholds for each of those BASICs: Unsafe Driving, HOS Compliance and Crash Indicator is 65% (with percentiles of 50% for passenger vehicles and 60% for hazardous materials vehicles); Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances and/or Alcohol, and Vehicle Maintenance is 80% (with percentiles of 65% for passenger vehicles and 75% for hazardous materials vehicles); and Hazardous Materials Compliance at 80%.
Carrier safety performance in the SMS system is based upon the previous 24 months of on-road performance, inspection, and crash data, as well as any Acute and Critical Violations found during any investigations over the last 12 months. As would be expected, more recent inspections weigh more heavily on the SMS calculations. Violations are broken down into three time periods: those that occurred within the last 6 months, those that occurred between 6 months and 1 year ago, and those older than 12 months, but more recent than 24 months. Carriers are then grouped by BASIC with other carriers with a similar number of safety events, then assigned a percentile from 0 to 100 prioritizing them for interventions.
On-road performance, investigation results, annual audits, and safety events such as International Roadcheck can all result in a motor carrier being identified for CSA interventions. During any of these events or situations, a company could also be given “Conditional” or “Unsatisfactory” ratings, which puts them at increased risk for audits, not to mention more scrutiny from auditors, inspectors, and federal entities. Then there are the fines and potential lost business from carrying such a negative distinction.
Motor carriers can improve their BASIC Thresholds by simply demonstrating improved performance at roadside inspections and by remaining violation-free so that their poor inspections eventually fall outside the 24-month timeframe. They can also increase their standing when going a full year without any BASIC violations (this is particularly important when it comes to the Unsafe Driving and Crash Indicator BASICs). The SMS also stops flagging motor carriers a year after Acute or Critical Violations have been issued.
It can be confusing to understand all these regulations – and their various consequences – so ensure that you and your drivers are as informed and knowledgeable as possible. Also, remain vigilant about the physical condition of your fleet. You can also try to stay off the FMCSA’s radar by joining up with NorthAmerican Transportation Association (NTA). Contact us today at 800-805-0040 (Ext 102) to learn how we can help you remain in good standing, when it comes to BASICs, and stay below Intervention Thresholds. Don’t forget our motto – “Helping others to be successful” – and we mean it!