Inflation affects everybody, as we all found out in 2023. It even impacts the USDOT, which is why the USDOT issued a ruling last week that it would increase some of its penalties. Among the penalties included in the ruling are multiple FMCSA regulations.
The fine increases will only affect violations after January 6, the effective date for the rule. Any violations that a company incurred before that will be subject to the old fine amounts.
The increases apply across all federal agencies under the USDOT umbrella. That includes the FMCSA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), and others. All of these agencies will see their civil penalties increase.
The USDOT calculated the increase by using the change in the consumer price index from October 2021 to October 2022. This came out to an approximate 7% increase across the board.
For the FMCSA, it will affect a wide variety of penalties. Penalties related to out-of-service orders will increase significantly; these penalties were already large, so they will increase by more than $1,000 in most cases. The largest fine increase is for tariff violations, which will increase by nearly $14,000. A first-time alcohol offense will cost a bit less than $300 more.
These are only some of the fines that the new ruling affects. You can find out more about these fines here.
The FMCSA Increases Penalties Every Year to Maintain Deterrence
The practice of tying USDOT civil penalties to inflation began in 1990 with the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 (FCPIAA). Congress amended this law in 2015 to both adjust the calculation of the changes and their frequency. These days, there are two changes to civil penalties: a preliminary adjustment known as the “catch-up adjustment” and the final ruling. This recent change is the latter.
Why does the federal government need to adjust these penalties? Beyond simple budgetary concerns (which can be serious), the government wants these penalties to have a deterrent effect on people. The theory behind this idea is that the stiffer a penalty is, the more people will work to avoid it. Avoiding penalties, of course, means complying with federal law, which is definitely a positive in this regard.
While this ruling doesn’t affect the IRP, it still has late fees that you can incur. So make sure you keep your IRP registration up to date!