Research Project

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Civil Fines and Motor Carrier Safety


To assess the effectiveness of existing settlement approaches and to identify which approaches are most likely to change/improve non-compliant motor carrier and driver behaviors.


There is a wealth of internal enforcement data in the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) and the Enforcement Management Information System (EMIS) that can be evaluated for the ideal settlement approach/optimal settlement amount that both triggers a motor carrier to pay the penalty (and thereby avoid costly litigation) and motivates it to improve its safety posture. Questions that the Agency has identified include the following: Does the most effective settlement approach differ by carrier size, commodity classification and/or motor carrier operational type? When a motor carrier receives a civil penalty for violating a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation, what is the most effective enforcement approach to compelling the carrier to improve its safety posture? What is the most effective settlement approach that compels the motor carrier to both pay the penalty amount and subsequently change its non-compliant behavior to become safer? How does a reduction in civil penalty amounts affect motor carrier compliance? What is the optimal settlement rate (e.g., 80 percent, 50 percent, etc.) that both compels the carrier to pay its civil penalty and motivates it to improve safety?


In this project, the researcher will utilize existing EMIS and MCMIS census data on carrier operation size, type, and commodity classification, and match it up with safety information (i.e., crashes, OOS violations) and enforcement data (e.g., civil penalty amount, settlement type, suspension, reduction in fees, payment plans, etc.) to examine the most effective enforcement approaches for compelling positive changes in safety.


Final report.



September 2017: Kick-off meeting.
February 2018: Literature and information systems review complete.
February 2018: Initial peer review meeting.
April 2019: Data analysis complete.
April 2019: Second peer review meeting.
July 2019: Final briefing.
August 2019: Final report, research brief, and public-use dataset complete.


FY17 Funding: $343,498

Project Manager:

For more information, contact Nicole Michel of the Research Division at (202) 366-4354 or
Updated: Monday, January 8, 2018
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