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Conditional Rating – Are They Strangling Your Carrier?

Conditional Rating

Your FMCSA review will involve the examination of “factors” determining your compliance with the regulations. The focus point for a satisfactory review is “documentation.” You may have done what you considered to be the necessary steps to comply but if you failed to document your processes, it will not appear to the inspector that you have.

Your factors are:

  • Factor 1 — General
  • Factor 2 — Driver
  • Factor 3 — Operational
  • Factor 4 — Vehicle
  • Factor 5 — Hazardous materials
  • Factor 6 — Accidents

If the inspector finds violations during the compliance review, he/she will decide (based on regulatory guidance). If the violations are acute, critical, or “other.” Acute Violations are violations severe enough that the presence of a single violation requires immediate corrective action by the auditor and the carrier. Critical Violations are proof of a pattern of poor safety management controls. Critical violations will not effect the compliance review rating until they reach a level of ten percent non-compliance. Other violations are violations that are found that are neither acute nor critical. They will have no effect on the rating. However, you can be fined for all violations found during the compliance review.

Scoring the Factors

To score factors 1 thru 5, every time the inspector finds an acute violation, he/she will score one point in that factor. If the score is zero points in a factor your score for that factor is “satisfactory.” One point is “conditional,” and two or more points in a factor is considered “unsatisfactory.”

Factor 6 (accidents) is simply scored as “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” based on the accidents per million miles. If the accident rate is below 1.5 accidents per million miles, the factor is scored as satisfactory.

Scoring the Review

One unsatisfactory factor, combined with two or more conditional factors, results in a review score of unsatisfactory. Two unsatisfactory factors will also result in an unsatisfactory score for the review. If the carrier is rated as “unsatisfactory” by the auditor, the carrier has 60 days to put forth a “good faith effort to comply” and get FMCSA approval to continuing operating.

Conditional Ratings

In the past a Conditional rating was unlikely to put a carrier out of business, given FMCSA made it a priority to follow up on Conditional ratings to assess changes the carrier had made in cooperation with the agency. Now the agency essentially has abandoned old policies that prioritized follow-up Conditional carrier reviews.

The FMCSA’s focus is now on “performance-based programs” where intervention is more appropriate on current performance problems rather than follow up on old Conditional Rating. The Conditional Rating has now gained more importance to as it is combined with CSA’s Seven Basic Category measures of carrier compliance. This is detrimental to business due to the presumption of a carrier’s non-compliance. The negative effect not only effects your ability for growth but has a negative effect on your insurance costs as well.


In the new world market, it is imperative to upgrade your Conditional rating to Satisfactory. You must first address the issues that got you there.

Lower CSA scores are always beneficial but prepare a plan starting with your written request for upgrade. You must ensure that your carrier is compliant and the issues found during your review are corrected. It is also advisable to retain the services of a third-party consultant to review your factors for compliance.

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