Who and What is the FMCSA and What Do They Do?

Not everyone we come in contact is savvy of the key players and their functions in the industry so we would like to shed some light on who they are and their role in the industry. Many of you already know or know of the organization and their purpose but there may be a few things to learn from the following information.

How it began and what they do

The FMCSA (The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) was born out of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 to function under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The Act was brought about to:

“Amend Federal transportation law to establish in the Department of Transportation a Motor Carrier Safety Administration, with a separate motor coach division, which shall perform all functions currently performed by the Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety of the Federal Highway Administration.”

In short, they were made to be the leaders in transportation safety and create safety management program and other operations to enforce that safety. The safety management program is derived from a SMS/CSA score that is calculated for each carrier which includes:

·        “Unsafe driving — violations such as speeding, improper lane change, inattention.

·        Fatigued driving — evaluated using driver hours of service (HOS) records that are usually recorded on an electronic logging device (ELD), because an excessive number of hours behind the wheel is considered evidence of fatigue.

·        Driver fitness — which covers training, medical issues, licensing and certifications.

·        Controlled substances/alcohol — which may require drug testing.

·        Vehicle maintenance — examples of violations include mechanical defects or improper loading.

·        Hazardous materials compliance — covers the regulations on safe handling and proper documentation for these materials.

·        Crash indicator — a history or pattern of high crash involvement in accidents, with more weight given to recent incidents than past events.”


Since there are multiple sizes of motor carriers, everything from owner operators to mega-fleets, they are separated into their own section according to size. This helps the FMCSA make realistic conclusions and obtain a more accurate response to violations.

There are many programs that have come from the FMCSA to assist companies with safety as well as grants for financial assistance to carriers and other organizations reach critical goals. Below are just a few of them:

“Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) Grant

The MCSAP is a federal grant program that provides financial assistance to States to reduce the number and severity of crashes and hazardous materials incidents involving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) through consistent, uniform, and effective CMV safety programs. The MCSAP is FMCSA's largest grant program that supports State and local law enforcement agencies to utilize over 12,000 enforcement officers to increase enforcement and safety activities nationwide.

Commercial Driver License (CDL) Program Implementation Grant

The CDLPI grant provides financial assistance to States to achieve compliance with the requirements of 49 CFR Parts 383 and 384. Additionally, the CDLPI grant program provides financial assistance for other entities capable of executing national projects that aid States in their compliance efforts and that will improve the national Commercial Driver's License (CDL) program.

CMV Operator Safety Training (CMVOST) Grant

The CMVOST grant program, has two goals: 1) to expand the number of CDL holders possessing enhanced operator safety training to help reduce the severity and number of crashes on U.S. roads involving commercial motor vehicles; and 2) to assist current or former members of the United States Armed Forces and their spouses to receive training to transition to the CMV operation industry.”

Read more about the programs and grants here

Who runs the show?

According to congress.gov the FMCSA is to be “headed by an Administrator (with professional experience in motor carrier safety) appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.”

So, for right now Jack Van Steenburg is the Executive Director and Chief Safety Officer as well as a team that supports the organization. In his position he “is responsible for strengthening FMCSA’s vital strategic partnerships with federal, state, and local governments, members of the highway safety community, industry stakeholders and the motoring public. As the Agency’s highest-ranking career employee, he leads the Agency’s Congressionally mandated mission to save lives by reducing the severity and the number crashes involving large trucks and buses. He is responsible for ensuring FMCSA remains a science, data-driven organization, fully transparent and fully accountable.”

While Mr. Steenburg has extensive experience in motor-safety compliance, the bulk of his career resides in 25 years of law enforcement.

You can read more about the team here.

What has it done?

Before the FMCSA formed it wasn’t necessarily the “wild-west” but since its inception, the organization has brought about safety standards that, however strict they may seem or become, has changed the landscape of trucking for the better. Whether protecting the driver or the every-day four wheelers on the road they have put in place measures that prevent overly tired truckers from getting behind the wheel, attempting to decrease the number of unfit individuals on the road, and many other benefits that are seen and unseen.

Though compliance with these types of organizations in the U.S. can be tedious and sometimes painful, the overall goal is to maintain safety with whatever resources available.

Safety is key and something that Meadow Lark never puts on the back burner. If you care about safe transport and need a company that feels the same, give us a call (877) 590-5450

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