Upgrading DOT Safety Ratings

Many of you have Conditional DOT safety ratings, and have found that a Conditional rating hurts your business. A for-hire motor carrier is at a significant disadvantage as some brokers and shippers won’t load you, some will load you but pay you less, and insurance companies charge you more in premiums. If you have an Unsatisfactory rating, you only have 60 days to convince DOT to let you continue operating, or they place you Out of Service.

How do you get your rating upgraded to Satisfactory? It’s not easy. Under the current Obama Administration, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult every week. DOT used to conduct, at a motor carrier’s request, an audit, to determine a carrier’s safety fitness. If the results of the audit were good, you get the Satisfactory rating. If they were not good, you get to keep your Conditional rating, or move down to Unsatisfactory, and get a giant fine. FMCSA no longer conducts these followup audits for rating purposes. FMCSA has decided they will audit who they want to audit, and if you get a less-than Satisfactory rating in an audit, too bad for you.

So how do you get the rating put back to Satisfactory if they won’t reaudit you? There is a procedure in the rules which allows you to petition them based on corrective action. You send them a letter, with whatever backup documentation you want, and attempt to prove to them you are in compliance with the rules.

What rules must the FMCSA follow in granting or denying these petitions? None. Ok, virtually none. The rules say a motor carrier must have “adequate safety management controls in place, which function effectively to ensure acceptable compliance with applicable safety regulations”. So, what’s that mean? Well for one thing, I guarantee that your idea of ‘acceptable safety management controls’ is different than FMCSA’s. The result of this is, you can petition them and petition them and petition them, and they can just keep saying NO. On one carrier, where we were denied multiple times by the FMCSA for the Satisfactory rating, the petition we submitted where we finally got the rating weighed 25 pounds.

But there must be an appeal process, right? This is America, if FMCSA is unjustly denying me a Satisfactory rating I must be able to appeal, right? Well, yes you can appeal. You can file your appeal, and explain why you should be Satisfactory. It will go to Washington DC, where it will sit. And sit. And sit, for literally years. I am not making that up. It will sit for years. When it is finally ruled upon, you will lose. You will lose, because it is such a nebulous and undefined standard, the decision-maker will take FMCSA’s side. Not to mention the decision-maker is an employee of FMCSA. Therefore, yes, there is an appeal process. It is a useless and meaningless appeal process, and you’ll never win using it, but there is an appeal process.

Don’t get me wrong. Rating upgrades can be accomplished. I have done them. I know what FMCSA wants to see in order to grant the upgrades. If anyone can assist you in getting a rating upgrade, it’s me. Some upgrades are easier than others. I believe they will be more difficult after this Sky Express business. It is easier if you have little or no violations. It is easier if your CSA scores are not high. Most FMCSA personnel are relatively fair-minded, but they want extensive proof you are not violating the rules. Getting a safety rating upgraded is difficult, and takes a lot of time. The days of sending in a letter, and getting the rating are over. It takes time, and I get paid for my time, so don’t fall out of your chair, when I tell you how long I think it could take to get the rating, and how much I’ll charge to help you.

21 thoughts on “Upgrading DOT Safety Ratings

  • August 5, 2011 at 6:05 pm


    Im requesting for assistance in order to get a safety rating upgrade from conditional to satisfactory.

    Thank you for your time, hope to hear from you soon.

    Abukar Munye
    Horn Express, inc

  • October 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I’m requesting for assistance in order to get the safety rating upgrade from conditional to satisfactory . Thank you and I hope to here from you soon. Dora Delgado

  • November 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Dora: My phone number is 610-582-4356. Feel free to call me, and perhaps I can help you.

  • March 22, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Im requesting for assistance in order to get a safety rating upgrade from conditional to satisfactory.

    thx raj

  • April 4, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Requesting your services to improve our safety rating from Conditional to Satisfactory.


  • April 12, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Kevin: I tried to call you a week ago, and left you a message. If you still want to discuss your situation, call me at (610) 582-4356.

  • May 12, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    We need your help to improve our safety rating from conditional to satisfactory

  • May 16, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Please call me at 610-582-4356

  • August 9, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    I would like to see if you where interested in helping our company out thanks.

  • August 13, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    I am retired CHP. Currently I am safety and compliance counsel for Insurance and industry. I write and submit petitions requesting upgrades for ratings just like your business. You are correct in every sense of the word about the futility of getting a conditional rating upgraded by using this system.
    A thought: change business structure inactivate current USDOT amd MC docket. Start new company become a new entrant, get a new MC docket and USDOT number. It would be illegal and un ethical if you did that after revocation of authority(unsatisfactory) with a cease decease order. The only other way would be if the carrier had a complaint follow up triggering an inspection.
    if a complaint was filed against a motor carrier intrastate (or interstate) based in California the CHP does by policy require service and a surprise visit and terminal inspection
    Doing a do over might be cheaper than doing less because of conditional rating you cannot get upgraded. In the country of California a conditional rating by the CHP required by statute a reinspection within 6 months. The policy was a conditional couldn’t be continued or followed by another conditional.

  • August 26, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Yes, it is incredibly frustrating for all involved trying to upgrade a conditional carrier. I believe the problem is FMCSA officials have become so emasculated, they are terrified of doing their jobs. So, they let petitions sit forever, hoping someone else will make a decision for them, lest they make the wrong decision.

  • September 15, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    I’m requesting for assistance in order to get the safety rating upgrade from unsatisfactory

  • September 24, 2014 at 2:21 pm


  • October 1, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Jeremy: If you want my assistance, please call me at (610) 582-4356.

  • October 1, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Shane: if you want to talk, call me at (610) 582-4356. However, this is not something that gets done for $500. Sorry, it simply involves a ton of time on these rating upgrades.

  • January 19, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    “Under the current Obama Adminstration, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult every week”.

    Are you really indicating that Obama has made it more difficult to pass an audit?? What are your facts to back up this statement and your spelling of Administration is incorrect.

    Facts are the Federal guidelines for an Audit or any regulation for that matter can be found directly in the FMCSR handbook and for that matter have changed very little over the past 15 years.

  • January 22, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Thank you for correcting my typographical error. I have made the correction. I believe my post stated it was more difficult to get a rating upgraded under the Obama Administration. Perhaps I should have said the Obama FMCSA, as obviously Obama is not approving or denying these rating appeals. What is my basis for this? Experience. I worked in that agency up until 2003, and was in an office which did rating upgrades. Also, I have been submitting rating upgrades since I went into business in 2003. Things which used to be approved in days or weeks, are now approved in months, if at all.

  • February 24, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Hi, I’m in an urgent need of Safety rating upgrade from Unsat to Cond… Please give a call when you’ll get a chance. Gary 215-850-4971

  • March 9, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Please let me kno. I need to upgrade my unsatisfactory to conditional asap. Please let me know if you can help.

  • April 28, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Robert: I apologize, but I do not check the website comments as often as I should. If you want an immediate response, please email me at eric@arnoldsafety.com, or call me at (610) 582-4356. Thank you.

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