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CSA Warning Letters: Tips to Know

When it comes to informing a motor carrier that they have violated FMCSA regulations warning letters are often the first step in the intervention process. The FMCSA sends warning letters to motor carriers whose safety performance data indicates they are not complying with applicable regulations. Below are some tips about warning letters that provides some insight into how motor carriers can take action to improve their safety operations.

Warning Letters: An Overview

A warning letter is a correspondence sent by the FMCSA to a motor carrier’s place of business that identifies Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) that are assigned an “alert” and outlines possible consequences of continued safety problems. The warning letter provides instructions for accessing motor carrier safety data in the Safety Management System (SMS) as well as a point-of-contact for additional information.

Why did I get one?

Safety performance data shows whether the motor carrier is operating in full compliance with all applicable FMCSA safety regulations. Based on this data, the warning letter lists BASICs where the motor carrier’s on-road performance over the past 24 months indicates safety concerns.

How do I respond?

Motor carriers that receive warning letters should review their safety data in order to develop and execute strategies that will make their operations compliant with safety regulations. Continued poor performance may lead to more intensive interventions. Motor carriers are not required to send a written response to the FMCSA upon receiving a warning letter.

Wondering what to do now? Follow these tips!

Tip #1: Check your data

-The FMCSA released the SMS to the public on December 12, 2010. Motor carriers can log in to the SMS with their U.S DOT number and PIN to access safety data or log in to the FMCSA Portal.

  • Log in to review data.
  • Ensure data accuracy
  • Examine violation types.

Tip #2: Understand your safety assessment: percentiles and alerts


-The SMS calculates a measure for each BASIC as described in the SMS Methodology on the CSA website. The measure is then used to assign a ranking or percentile that allows the safety behavior of a motor carrier to be compared with the safety behavior of motor carriers with similar operations and number of safety events. The percentile is computed on a 0-100 scale. A lower percentile indicates better compliance with safety regulations than a higher percentile. FMCSA established percentile thresholds to indicate when safety compliance problems require intervention. If a carrier does not have a percentile, it generally means the carrier has not had enough inspections to allow for an analysis of records.

  • Unsafe Driving, Fatigued Driving, Crash Indicator: General-65%; Passenger-50%
  • Driver Fitness, Controlled Sub./Alcohol, Vehicle Maint., Cargo: General-80%; HAZMAT-75%; Passenger-65%


A motor carrier can receive an alert in a BASIC in one of two ways. The On-Road column lists the motor carrier’s percentile for each BASIC. If the percentile is over the established intervention threshold, the percentile is presented with an orange outline around the percentile. The Investigation column displays the “Serious Violation Found” icon for a BASIC if a serious violation was cited during an investigation within 12 months of the SMS results date. The icon will remain present for 12 months following an investigation regardless of whether corrective actions have occurred.

Tip #3: Take action to improve safety now!

-Motor carriers that do not improve may be subject to more intensive interventions such as full or focused compliance reviews or, for carriers in Op-Model Test States, onsite or offsite investigations. Don’t wait, improve safety now!

  • Conduct detailed data analysis.
  • Address safety issues.
  • Periodically review SMS data.

For more information visit http://CSA.FMCSA.DOT.GOV

Joel Beal

General Manager, LoadTrek


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