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'Penalty flags' are flying at FMCSA

March 16, 2023
FMCSA is 'flagging' motor carriers that have not updated their MCS-150 forms within the past two years—but it is also important to update the form any time there is a significant change in the information

Football referees might not be throwing penalty flags now that the season is over, but “flags” are flying at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The agency is “flagging” motor carriers that have not updated their MCS-150 forms within the past two years. Those motor carriers will receive closer scrutiny from the federal government and its law enforcement partners. Closer scrutiny is not always a good thing.

FMCSA requires interstate motor carriers to file Form MCS-150 titled, “Motor Carrier Identification Report,” or form MCS-150B titled, “Combined Motor Carrier Identification Report and HM Permit Applications.” The same requirement applies to international carriers and to intrastate motor carriers which haul hazardous materials. Carriers must update the form at least every two years at a minimum.

Why is FMCSA so concerned about a paperwork requirement? The MCS-150 provides the agency with updated carrier contact information. Outdated information can hinder FMCSA crash investigations and safety audits. It can also frustrate the ability of law enforcement to contact a carrier in an emergency situation.

See also: Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse starts proactive notifications this month

MCS-150 also contains the number of trucks and miles operated. That data helps FMCSA assign the motor carrier to the appropriate safety comparison group under the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. That, in turn, can affect the carrier’s safety rating.

But it is not just FMCSA looking at the MCS-150 information. The information is readily available to the public, including insurance companies and state licensing agencies. Insurance companies base their coverage in part on the number of trucks and miles operated by the carrier. States issue license plates, decals, and stickers for the number of trucks shown on MCS-150, and some may deny licensing entirely if a carrier failed to update its MCS-150 within the two-year cycle.

So it is important to update the MCS-150 form any time there is a significant change in the information, not just every two years. Insurance up for renewal? Licensing year about to expire? Make sure the MCS-150 reflects accurate information.

When will FMCSA reach for a “flag”? Look at the last two digits of a motor carrier’s DOT number. They reveal when an MCS-150 update is due. The second-to-last number tells if the update must be made in an odd- or even-numbered year. The final number indicates the month that update is due, from “1” for January to “0” for October. No updates are due in November or December.

We have all seen a great football play nullified by a flag on the field. The FMCSA “flag” for MCS-150 non-compliance is easy to avoid—just do the update.

Steve Vaughn is vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and electronic toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

About the Author

Steve Vaughn | Senior Vice President of Field Operations

Steve Vaughn is senior vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and electronic toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

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