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The trucking industry is highly profitable and expanding continuously. According to Business Insider, nearly 6% of full-time workers in the United States work in the trucking industry. As more individuals enter the trucking workforce, you need to stay up-to-date about carrier qualifications and the best ways to connect with brokers and customers.

As an owner-operator, you need to be aware of the different compliance factors and qualifications brokers and shippers weigh when determining who they partner with. For example, brokers will make sure carriers remain compliant to work with and don’t have any major DOT violations. In this article, you’ll learn all about compliance guidelines, carrier qualifications, and the importance of connecting with Registry Monitoring Insurance Services (RMIS) or other similar verification services.

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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Safety and Compliance Guidelines

Compliance guidelines are essential in the trucking industry. Brokers and shippers have a variety of carriers to choose from when it comes to transporting freight, so they often look for carriers who score well with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA has seven different scores for Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA).

The FMCSA’s seven different scores include:

  • Unsafe driving – Includes speeding, reckless driving, no seatbelt, not paying attention to the road, and changing lanes unsafely.
  • Crash indicator – History of the carrier’s vehicular accidents. The crash indicator information is not publicly recorded.
  • Hours of Service (HOS) compliance Needs to comply with Hours of Service regulations, which includes logbooks.
  • Vehicle maintenance – Some required repairs may include brakes, lights, and defects. You need to make all necessary repairs to your vehicle.
  • Controlled substances and alcohol The use or possession of controlled substances and alcohol.
    Hazardous materials compliance – This may include leaking containers as well as packaging and placarding that’s incorrectly stored.
  • Driver fitness – This can include invalid licenses or not being medically fit to operate the vehicle.

The seven different criteria for CSA are ranked between 0 and 100, with lower scores indicating better performances in the different areas. When you’re evaluated, your data is stored in the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS). The FMCSA updates the SMS every month.

The FMCSA’s SMS considers different factors when updating your data including:

  • The number of safety violations and inspections.
  • The severity of any safety violations and vehicle accidents.
  • How recently a violation occurred (the more recent a violation, the worse it will look in the SMS).
  • The number of trucks and buses you’ve operated and the number of miles you’ve traveled.

In addition to these factors, the FMCSA also takes into account Acute and Critical Violations found during investigations.

Some of the most common Acute Violations include:

  • Failing to implement and enforce random drug and alcohol screenings.
  • Operating a vehicle with a revoked or suspended license.
  • Making a false statement on record.
  • Lack of financial responsibility.
  • Driving an out-of-service vehicle.
  • Allowing drivers who have more than one commercial driver’s license to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Allowing someone who has tested positive for drugs or alcohol to operate a vehicle.
  • Using a commercial motor vehicle that hasn’t been inspected in more than a year.
  • Failing to submit a plan for safely transporting hazardous materials.

Common Critical Violations investigated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration include:

  • Letting a driver work before their results come in for a pre-screening test.
  • Submitting falsified reports regarding duty status.
  • Hiring a driver who fails to meet necessary qualifications.
  • Not requiring a driver to take a post-accident drug and alcohol test.
  • Failing to maintain medical certificates of drivers.
  • Failing to have the qualifications of drivers on file.
  • Not requiring a driver to prepare vehicle inspection reports.
  • Failing to keep maintenance and inspection records.
  • Having a driver’s Record of Duty Status without submitting it to the FMCSA when they request it.

There are many different benefits to following carrier compliance and abiding by the different scores established by the FMCSA. Staying in compliance can lead to positive working relationships with quality brokers and other customers. When you follow carrier compliance, you improve your reputation, and great brokers and shippers will want to work with you.

When you have a great CSA score, you also prove to brokers and other potential customers that they can avoid unnecessary transportation costs that can result from using an unsafe carrier. Brokers and shippers will trust you with their freight without worrying about wasted finances spent on damaged freight, insurance claims, and damaged equipment.

Necessary Carrier Qualifications

In addition to complying with the FMCSA, you also need to fulfill necessary carrier qualifications. There are several steps you need to take to qualify as a carrier.

Keep Your Commercial Driver’s License Up to Date

It takes time and money to get your commercial driver’s license (CDL). You don’t want to let that qualification lapse, especially after going through the effort of obtaining your commercial driver’s permit, then going through schooling to earn your CDL. Depending on your state of residence, CDLs are typically valid between five and eight years.

Driving with an expired license can result in heavy penalties and fines; for example, the DOT can revoke CDLs if you’re found driving with an expired license. Make sure to check the specific renewal process and requirements in your state so you don’t have to worry about points being added to your license, or increased insurance premiums.

Get Commercial Truck Insurance

Obtaining commercial truck insurance is an absolute must for your small business. Insurance is necessary for protecting your business and your finances in the event of an accident. As an owner-operator, you will need to obtain multiple types of commercial truck insurance.

Primary Liability Truck Insurance

The first type of insurance that you’ll need is usually required when obtaining a CDL. Primary liability insures people and property damaged by your truck.

General Liability Truck Insurance

As an owner-operator, you need to obtain general liability truck insurance to protect your business.

All vehicles are required to have $750,000 of insurance coverage. You’re also often required by the FMCSA to have proof of general liability coverage.

General liability insurance covers the following:

  • Accidents at delivery locations: This protects carriers if they cause damage to property at a delivery site.
  • False claims: General liability protects you from libel and slander that can hurt your business.
  • Damaged property and commodities: This covers damage that your truck may have done to someone else’s property, but it also protects you if you make a mistake during transit and deliver freight to an incorrect location.
  • Bodily injury: This covers the medical expenses and lawsuit costs if you injure someone with your truck.

Although general liability insurance covers many potential risks, it does not cover everything.

The following items are not covered:

  • Carrier injuries: Your general insurance does not cover your own medical bills.
  • Personal truck damage: Although general liability is great for covering damage to other vehicles, it does not protect your truck.
  • Lost income resulting after an accident: If you or your truck is involved in an accident, your insurance will not cover finances while you’re out of commission.

The Importance of the Registry Monitoring Insurance Services

A critical step owner-operators are often required to take when connecting with brokers is working with Registry Monitoring Insurance Services (RMIS) or other similar verification services. RMIS is a technology company that automates carrier compliance and documents insurance certificates. Freight brokers often work with RMIS when using a carrier’s services to ensure that they’re in compliance and meet all necessary qualifications for transporting freight.

RMIS first opened its doors in 1996 as a third-party vendor for freight brokers to track carrier insurance certificates. At that time, freight brokers often didn’t share information regarding carriers, so RMIS helped brokers find the qualifications and insurance certificates of available carriers.

Xpress Technologies Can Help You Connect with RMIS

Connecting with RMIS is critical for working with brokers. Brokers go through RMIS and other similar verification services to track down carrier insurance and to ensure carrier compliance. Carriers also provide their direct deposit information with RMIS so they can get paid by brokerages like Xpress Technologies.

When you sign up with Xpress Technologies, you’re able to register with RMIS quickly and easily. Our latest update enables carriers to register for both RMIS and a digital account on our proprietary Xpress Technologies platform all at once. The Xpress Technologies App can help you find freight that meet your specific preferences so you can reduce deadhead miles. By registering with RMIS and Xpress Technologies, you’ll be able to connect with our exceptional brokers and grow your business.

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Leveraging over 40 years of industry experience, Xpress Technologies is here to help carriers grow their businesses by providing reliable and cost-effective services. If you’re ready to discover how Xpress Technologies can support your business, connect with our Carrier Xperience Team.