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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

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.


FMCSA has identified numerous questions related to civil penalties and motor carrier safety. Some of these questions are as follows:
  • 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?
Internal enforcement data available in the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) and the Enforcement Management Information System (EMIS) may inform the Agency as it seeks to determine 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.


In this project, the researcher will utilize existing MCMIS and EMIS census data on carrier operation size, type, and commodity classification, and match it up with safety information (i.e., crashes, out-of-service 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.
April 2019: Data analysis complete.
July 2019: Peer review of findings.
August 2019: Draft report received.
August 2019: Final report on findings.
October 2020: Report published.


FY17 Funding: $349,498

Current Status:

Project completed. Report pending agency review.

Project Manager:

For more information, contact Nicole Michel of the Research Division at (202) 366-4354 or