The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the safety of Commercial Motor Vehicles, or CMVs. It is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Transportation whose primary mission is “to prevent crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses,” according to its Facebook page.
What is a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)?
A CMV is a vehicle used on highways in interstate commerce that either:
- Weighs more than 10,000 lbs. (26,000 lbs. in Texas)
- Transports or is designed to transport 16 or more people (including the driver), or -more than 8 people for compensations
- Transports hazardous materials in quantities requiring placarding
What does the FMCSA do?
The agency’s mission is to “reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial motor vehicle (CMV) transportation through education, innovation, regulation, enforcement, financial assistance, partnerships, and full accountability.”¹ Its three core principles involve raising the bar to entry for the industry, hold carriers and drivers to high safety standards, and remove the highest risk drivers, vehicles, and carriers (truck and bus companies) from the roads.
The FMCSA enforces safety regulations, improves information systems and CMV technologies, keeps operating and equipment standards high, and generally promotes safety awareness. It works closely with Federal, State, and local enforcement agencies, as well as the motor carrier industry and organized labor groups. While the FMCSA’s work targets CMV drivers and carriers, the agency also promotes safety awareness to the public through various programs and resources, such as Look Before You Book and Protect Your Move.
History and success
Formerly a part of the Federal Highway Administration, the FMCSA was established in 2000 in accordance with the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (49 U.S.C. 113). Its current chief counsel is T.F. Scott Darling III. The FMCSA is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and employs over 1,000 people in all 50 states. A Division Administrator, who works with a Federal Program Manager, Border Supervisor, Safety Investigators, Auditors, and Inspectors to carry out the agency’s programs and regulations, oversees each state Division office.
The FMCSA has been largely successful in its efforts. Between 2000-2011, the fatality rate of large truck and bus crashes dropped 33.7%. The FMCSA continues to push to lower that number. It publishes Motor Carrier Safety Progress Reports several times per year, a pocket guide to relevant statistics (March 2013), and an annual report about Large Truck and Bus Crash Statistics (2013).
Budget & programs
In 2015 the FMCSA requested an annual budget of approximately $668 million to support the FMCSA 2012-2016 Strategic Plan, which aligns with the United States Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Strategic Framework and Roadway Safety Plan (RSP). Of the $668 million requested, 94% was allocated to safety programs, with over 50% of those funds for grants to State organizations.
The FMCSA publishes develops programs and publishes legislation for CMV carriers and drivers. These fall under three basic categories: regulations, registration, and safety. Regulations are published in the Federal Register and compiled in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
The cornerstone of FMCSA’s compliance and enforcement program is Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA), which identifies noncompliance with safety regulations largely through its data analysis technology, the Safety Measurement System (SAS). The FMCSA is in the process of studying and updating its Hours of Service (HOS) regulation, which tries to minimize CMV driver fatigue on the job. The agency also implemented the National Registry rule in 2014, which raised the standards for all Medical Examiners (MEs) issuing medical certifications for interstate CMV drivers. A planned extension of this rule would make it even more difficult for drivers to falsify medical cards.
You can contact the FMCSA directly or its State field office via phone or email.
Phone: +1 800-832-5660
Texas Division Field Office:
903 San Jacinto Blvd, Suite 101 Austin, TX 78701
Phone: (512) 916-5440
Fax: (512) 916-5482
In following articles we’ll dive into FMCSA regulations for drivers and carriers, as well as resources for consumer protection.
- “DOT Regulatory Overview.” J.J. Keller & Associates. http://www.txowa.org/conf2012/TOWA%202012%20McLennan/DOT%20Regulatory%20Overview%2001%2009%2012.pdf
- “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – Page Info.” Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/FMCSA/info/?tab=page_info
- “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.” Federal Register. https://www.federalregister.gov/agencies/federal-motor-carrier-safety-administration & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Motor_Carrier_Safety_Administration
- “Figuring Out the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Regulations: Do They Apply and What to Do if the Answer Is ‘Yes’.” Community Transportation Association. http://web1.ctaa.org/webmodules/webarticles/articlefiles/Texas_FMCSA_issues.pdf
- “Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Estimates.” FMCSA, March 31 2014.