“Out of Service.”
Nothing runs a chill up the spine of a DOT regulated motor carrier than the words “Out of Service.” But, unfortunately, DOT Out-of-Service orders do happen.
The usual reason a DOT Out-of-Service (OOS) order is directed against a motor carrier is for not cooperating in a timely manner in an audit or a request for information or some other action on part of the motor carrier.
In late December 2015, a medium sized carrier with over 300 trucks on the East Coast was given an out-of-service order. The reason for the order according to published reports, was that the motor carrier had received an “unsatisfactory rating” by the DOT in October 2015, and had not submitted a corrective safety plan or an administrative appeal before a 60 day response period.
Motor carriers also may receive a “conditional rating.” Says one DOT safety and compliance consultant . . .
“Conditional ratings continue to be very damaging. They are also difficult to get upgraded. Oh yes, I can do it, probably as well as anyone, but don’t expect it’s going to be fast, or cheap. The general waiting line once the petition is filed is 3 months. In other words, your petition is going to sit on a DOT officer’s desk for 3 months before he looks at it. Also, it takes a significant amount of my time to put these things together. Time is money. Therefore, if you think you’ll call me, I’ll write a letter, charge you $500, and boom! the rating is upgraded . . . no, oh, no.” Eric Arnold
Some Lessons Learned
If your company receives an adverse DOT safety rating (Conditional or Unsatisfactory), then time is of essence in getting the matter corrected to the satisfaction of the DOT. Waiting to the end of a deadline period may not stop the clock or the DOT from issuing an Out-of-Service order. Merely submitting a corrective safety plan (CSP) may not result in an automatic abeyance of the OOS order. The CSP, after all, needs to be approved — and things never move fast as you would like in any bureaucracy . . .
• Always respond to DOT requests in a timely matter.
• The government’s “business day” ends at 5 P.M., not at midnight.
• Don’t wait until the last minute and drop something in the mail hoping that since it has been postmarked that you are good to go. As someone said, “hope is not a strategy.”
Thank you for reading this.