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This is an excerpt from FMCSA's Motor Carrier Safety Planner specific to your interests. As you navigate through the pages, pay close attention to any notes and highlights. Click here to read the entire Safety Planner and find more resources to help you comply with FMCSRs.



Skip to Acronyms

An event involving a CMV that results in:

  • A fatality;
  • Injury to a person who needs immediate medical treatment away from the accident site; or
  • One or more vehicles being disabled due to the accident.

The term crash can be used interchangeably with accident. The term accident does not apply to events involving boarding and alighting from a stationary vehicle, or those involving the loading or unloading of cargo.

acute noncompliance
Violation(s) that require immediate corrective actions by a carrier, regardless of the carrier’s overall safety posture.

Alcohol is the intoxicating agent in beverage alcohol, ethyl alcohol, or other low molecular weight alcohols including methyl and isopropyl alcohol.

brake inspector

Any employee who is responsible for ensuring that all brake inspections, maintenance, service, or repairs meet Federal standards.


A threat or act by someone to withhold business or work opportunities, or any adverse employment action, against another individual in order to make that person violate rules or regulations. FMCSA adopted a Coercion Rule on Nov. 30, 2015, the details of which are explained in 49 CFR 390.6

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A type of driver's license required to operate large or heavy vehicles. Requires a higher level of knowledge, experience, skills, and physical abilities than that required to drive a non-commercial vehicle.  CDL holders are held to a higher standard when operating any type of vehicle on public roads.

Commercial Driver's License Information System (CDLIS)

Established by FMCSA pursuant to section 12007 of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986. CDLIS enables the States to exchange information about the driving records and driver’s licenses of CMV drivers. CDLIS helps ensure:

  • Only one license is issued to a driver; and
  • Drivers currently disqualified are prevented from obtaining a CDL.

Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP)

A CLP is issued to an individual by a State or other jurisdiction of domicile. See 49 CFR 383.25.

  • When carried with a valid driver’s license issued by the same State or jurisdiction, it authorizes the individual to operate a class of CMV when accompanied by a holder of a valid CDL for purposes of behind-the-wheel training.
  • When issued to a CDL holder, a CLP serves as authorization for accompanied behind-the-wheel training in a CMV for which the holder's current CDL is not valid.

Commercial Motor Vehicle (as defined in 49 CFR 383.5) This additional definition only applies to regulations in 49 CFR 383.

A motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used in commerce to transport passengers or property if the motor vehicle is a:

  1. Combination Vehicle (Group A)—having a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more), whichever is greater, inclusive of a towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds), whichever is greater; or
  2. Heavy Straight Vehicle (Group B)—having a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of 11,794 or more kilograms (26,001 pounds or more), whichever is greater; or
  3. Small Vehicle (Group C) that does not meet Group A or B requirements but that either—
    1. Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver; or
    2. Is of any size and is used in the transportation of hazardous materials as defined in this section.

Commercial Motor Vehicle (as defined in 49 CFR 390.5)

Any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle:

  1. Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater; or
  2. Is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation; or
  3. Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation; or
  4. Is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and transported in a quantity requiring placarding under regulations prescribed by the Secretary under 49 CFR, subtitle B, chapter I, subchapter C.

compliance review

An onsite examination of motor carrier operations, such as drivers’ hours of service, maintenance and inspection, driver qualification, Commercial Driver’s License requirements, financial responsibility, accidents, hazardous materials, and other safety and transportation records to determine whether a motor carrier meets the safety fitness standard. A compliance review may be conducted to investigate potential violations of safety regulations by motor carriers, or to investigate complaints. The compliance review may result in an enforcement action.

Compliance, Safety, Accountability

Comprehensive safety compliance and enforcement program that enables FMCSA and State Partners to monitor carrier safety and intervene with carriers to address problems before crashes occur.

controlled substance

Substances as identified in 49 CFR 40.85. In accordance with FMCSA rules, urinalyses will be conducted to detect the presence of the following five drugs:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Amphetamines
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)


An unvacated adjudication of guilt or failure to comply with the law.

Cooperative Safety Plan

A voluntary plan a carrier may implement with the help of an FMCSA enforcement officer to address safety problems. This plan may be used alone or with a Notice of Violation (NOV), but it cannot replace a Notice of Claim (NOC).

corrective action plan

  • A plan developed by a carrier and provided to FMCSA that explains why a safety problem is occurring and the action the carrier will take to correct the problem and ensure that it does not reoccur.

critical noncompliance

  • Violation(s) related to management or operations, indicating a breakdown in a carrier’s management controls.

direct compensation

Payment made to the motor carrier by the passengers or a person acting on behalf of the passengers for the transportation services provided, and not included in a total package charge or other assessment for highway transportation services.


The suspension, revocation, or cancellation of a CDL. For full definition and other important related terms see 49 CFR 383.5.


An operation in which an empty or unladen motor vehicle with one or more sets of wheels on the surface of the roadway is being transported:

  • Between vehicle manufacturer facilities;
  • Between a vehicle manufacturer and a dealership or purchaser;
  • Between a dealership, or other entity selling or leasing the vehicle, and a purchaser or lessee;
  • To a motor carrier's terminal or repair facility for the repair of disabling damage (as defined in 390.5) following a crash; or
  • To a motor carrier's terminal or repair facility for repairs associated with the failure of a vehicle component or system; or

By means of a saddle-mount or tow-bar.


Operating a CMV on a roadway, including while temporarily halted because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delay. An operator is no longer driving when the driver has stopped in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.

entry-level driver

A driver who has less than one year of experience operating a CMV with a CDL in interstate commerce.

financial responsibility

Policies and bonds that satisfy a carrier’s ability to cover public liability.

for-hire carrier

  • A person or company engaged in the transportation of goods or passengers for compensation. For hire carriers need to obtain operating authority (MC number) in addition to a U.S. DOT Number.

hand-held mobile device

  • Any mobile device that requires at least one hand to be fully operational. In order to comply with 49 CFR 392.82, drivers must utilize an earpiece or the speaker phone function and must initiate, answer, or end a call using voice-activation or one-button touch features.


An evaluation of a driver, vehicle, or both to ensure safe operations. The six levels of inspections conducted in North America are developed by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). The level of inspection refers to what is examined during the inspection. Level 1 is the most comprehensive type of inspection.

interstate commerce

Trade, traffic, or transportation between the following:

  • A place in a State and a place outside of such State (including a place outside of the United States);
  • Two places in a State through another State or place outside of the United States; or
  • Between two places in a State as part of trade, traffic, or transportation beginning or ending outside the State or the United States.
Interstate commerce is not defined by the vehicle's travel between States, but the freight's movement between States.


Refers to a variety of tools FMCSA uses to address carriers that are found in violation of Federal safety regulations. Interventions include warning letters, inspections, and investigations, among others. The interventions process evaluates why safety problems occur, recommends remedies, encourages corrective action, and when necessary, invokes strong penalties for carriers failing to comply.

intrastate commerce

Any trade, traffic, or transportation in any State which is not described in the term interstate commerce.

LCV Driver-Training Certificate of Grandfathering

  • This shows that the driver is exempt from the training requirements based on experience. (Note: Drivers may be grandfathered from June 01, 2004 to May 31, 2005 only.) See 49 CFR 380.111 for driver training.

longer combination vehicle (LCV)

  • Any combination of a truck-tractor and two or more trailers or semi-trailers, which operate on the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways with a gross vehicle weight greater than 80,000 pounds (36,288 kilograms).

material error

A mistake or series of mistakes that resulted in an erroneous safety rating or Safety Audit.

new entrant

A motor carrier not domiciled in Mexico that applies for a United States Department of Transportation (DOT) identification number in order to initiate operations. A carrier is considered a new entrant for its first 18 months on the road, and must complete the New Entrant Safety Assurance Program.

New Entrant Safety Assurance Program (New Entrant Program)

FMCSA program to educate new motor carriers that operate in interstate commerce, and evaluate their safety fitness during their first 18 months on the road.

New Entrant Web System (NEWS)

If FMCSA selects a carrier for an Offsite Safety Audit, NEWS is the online system that carriers access to upload documents required to complete the Offsite Safety Audit. Auditors then access documents and complete the Audit using NEWS.

Not for direct compensation

Any compensation outside of the 'direct compensation' definition.

Notice of Claim

  • A formal notice that violations are severe enough to warrant assessment and civil penalties.

Notice of Violation

  • A formal notice that violations are severe enough to warrant formal action, but not civil penalties. To avoid further intervention from FMCSA, the carrier must take corrective action and provide evidence of it, or contest the violations.

off duty

Any time a driver is free of responsibility or care of a CMV, is not performing or expected to perform work, and is welcome to leave the premises of the CMV in order to pursue activities of their choosing.

on duty

All time from when a driver begins compensated work, or is required to be ready to work, until the time the driver is relieved of all responsibilities for performing work.

operating authority

Dictates the type of operation a company may run and the cargo it may carry. Some types of carrier must obtain operating authority in addition to registering (U.S. DOT Number) with FMCSA.

Out-of-Service Order

A declaration issued by FMCSA or a law enforcement professional that prohibits a motor carrier or driver from operating a commercial motor vehicle.

over-the-road bus

  • A bus characterized by an elevated passenger deck located over a baggage compartment.


  • A person who operates a CMV under his or her own authority (U.S. DOT Number), as both a motor carrier and self-employed driver.

private motor carrier of passengers (business)

Provides private interstate transportation of passengers in furtherance of a commercial enterprise and is not available to the public at large.

private motor carrier of passengers (non-business)

Provides private interstate transportation of passengers not in furtherance of a commercial enterprise and is not available to the public at large. (Examples: civic organization, scout group, or other organization that purchases or leases a bus for the private transportation of their group.)

public liability

The motor carrier’s responsibility for bodily injury, property damage, and environmental restoration following an accident.

Refusal to submit (to an alcohol or controlled substances test)

Means that a driver:

  1. Fails to appear for any test (except a pre-employment test) within a reasonable time, as determined by the employer, consistent with applicable DOT agency regulations, after being directed to do so by the employer.
  2. Fails to remain at the testing site until the testing process is complete. Provided, that an employee who leaves the testing site before the testing process commences (see 49 CFR 40.63(c)) a pre-employment test is not deemed to have refused to test.
  3. Fails to provide a urine specimen for any drug test required by this part or DOT agency regulations. Provided, that an employee who does not provide a urine specimen because he or she has left the testing site before the testing process commences for a pre-employment test is not deemed to have refused to test.
  4. In the case of a directly observed or monitored collection in a drug test, fails to permit the observation or monitoring of the driver's provision of a specimen.
  5. Fails to provide a sufficient amount of urine when directed, and it has been determined, through a required medical evaluation, that there was no adequate medical explanation for the failure.
  6. Fails or declines to take a second test the employer or collector has directed the driver to take.
  7. Fails to undergo a medical examination or evaluation, as directed by the MRO as part of the verification process, or as directed by the DER.
  8. Fails to cooperate with any part of the testing process (e.g., refuse to empty pockets when so directed by the collector, behave in a confrontational way that disrupts the collection process).
Is reported by the MRO as having a verified adulterated or substituted test result.

Roadside Inspection

  • See Inspection. Roadside inspections may be conducted at a variety of locations, such as weigh stations, border checkpoints, bus terminals, or when a law enforcement official stops a CMV.

Safety Audit

  • An examination of a motor carrier’s operations to provide educational and technical assistance on safety and the operational requirements of the FMCSRs and applicable HMRs and to gather critical safety data needed to make an assessment of the carrier’s safety performance and basic safety management controls. Safety Audits do not result in safety ratings.

safety management controls

The systems, policies, programs, practices, and procedures used by a motor carrier to ensure compliance with applicable safety and hazardous materials regulations.

Safety Measurement System

The web-based system FMCSA uses to collect data from roadside inspections, including driver and vehicle violations; crash reports from the last two years; and investigation results to identify motor carriers with safety problems to prioritize them for interventions.

safety rating

A safety rating is an evaluation of a motor carrier’s safety performance that is available to the carrier and the public. FMCSA issues one of three safety ratings: Satisfactory, Conditional, Unsatisfactory.

safety-sensitive function

All time from the time a driver begins to work or is required to be in readiness to work until the time he/she is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work.


Skip to Glossary
Americans with Disabilities Act
Commercial Driver’s License
Commercial Driver’s License Information System
Code of Federal Regulations
Commercial Learner’s Permit
commercial motor vehicle
compliance review
Compliance, Safety, Accountability
Cooperative Safety Plan
Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance
driver vehicle inspection report

Educational and Technical Assistance

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
Federal Transit Administration
Gross Combination Weight Rating
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
Hazmat (HM)
hazardous materials
Hazardous Materials Regulations
Hazardous Materials Safety Permit
Hazardous Materials Safety Permit
hours of service
intermodal equipment provider
longer combination vehicle
motor carriers of passengers
Medical Examiner’s Certificate
Motor Vehicle Record
New Entrant Web System
Notice of Claim
Notice of Violation
Out-of-Service Order
over-the-road bus
Pre-Authorization Safety Audit
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
private motor carriers of passengers
power units
records of duty status
substance abuse professional
Safety Measurement System
Unified Registration System
U.S. Department of Transportation
vehicle miles travelled

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