Following an FMCSA audit, the FMCSA issues a safety rating. They have 3 ratings: Satisfactory, Conditional, and Unsatisfactory. Actually, the really only have 2 ratings, Satisfactory and Conditional. If you are given an Unsatisfactory rating, you’re so screwed up, they only give you 60 days to fix what’s wrong, or they put you out of business. Well, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s more or less correct.
You can operate indefinitely with a Conditional rating. However, if you’re a for-hire motor carrier, a Conditional rating will generally hurt your business. Some shippers won’t load a Conditional carrier. For example, I had heard that CH Robinson had a problem with Conditional carriers. Insurance companies can use a Conditional rating as an excuse to raise rates.
The traditional method of getting FMCSA to up your rating to Satisfactory is getting them to re-audit you, and pass the audit. Then you get the Satisfactory rating, your Safestat scores drop, and everything is A-OK. FMCSA, however, is changing their procedures on that, though. FMCSA has so many audits which need to be done, they are unable to get to the carriers who need their ratings upgraded. FMCSA has a petition procedure, where a carrier can send written documentation into FMCSA, showing how they’ve mended their ways and come into compliance with the rules. If the documentation is thorough and compelling (their word), then they upgrade the rating.
The trick is, these petitions have to be complete, voluminous, and just the way FMCSA wants them. If they are going to give you the upgraded rating, without an audit, then they have to be sure you’ve earned it. If you end up in a wreck, and kill a family of six, the FMCSA guys don’t want to be on the nightly news because they gave you a rating you didn’t earn. In other words they need to CYA. Actually when talking about FMCSA personnel, CYA is one of their prime motivating factors. Remember that line from The Hunt for the Red October when Fred Thompson tells Alec Baldwin, “Russians don’t take a dump, son, without a plan”. Well, you could change that to “FMCSA doesn’t take a dump, son, without CYA”, and it would still be true.
At any rate, if you have a Conditional rating, want to get it upgraded, you could spend a week trying to figure it out yourself, or you could save yourself some aggravation and time: call me.