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Motor Carrier Safety Specialists

Significant Points

This series includes positions the duties of which are to administer, supervise, or perform work involved in promoting or enforcing compliance with Federal laws, standards, and regulations related to the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles on the public highways. Included are positions concerned with promoting safe operating practices and enforcing compliance by shippers of hazardous materials; motor carrier accident investigation and prevention; developing regulations and standards; and providing technical assistance to the industry and other jurisdictions involved in motor carrier safety. The work requires: (1) comprehensive knowledge of the laws, standards, and regulations governing motor carrier safety; (2) knowledge of the safety principles and practices applicable to the motor carrier industry; (3) practical knowledge of the competitive and operating practices, policies, organization, equipment, facilities, and recordkeeping systems of motor carriers; and (4) knowledge of investigative techniques used in compliance enforcement and accident investigation.

Nature of the Work

Positions in the Motor Carrier Safety Series are concerned with promoting and/or enforcing compliance by motor carriers, and shippers of hazardous materials, with Federal laws, standards, and regulations related to safe operation of motor vehicles engaged in interstate or foreign commerce on the public highways. Most positions involve such tasks as:

  • conducting compliance surveys and inspections of carriers' operating practices, records, and equipment for evidence of safety problems or violations of regulations;
  • investigating and documenting reports or allegations of unsafe and illegal carrier activity;
  • educating company officials and their employees on the intent and applicability of the regulations and on techniques and methods for improving safety and maintaining compliance;
  • investigating accidents and hazardous materials incidents involving motor carriers;
  • providing technical assistance to others involved in motor carrier and highway safety; and/or
  • performing other related technical or administrative work requiring knowledge of government regulation of the industry, knowledge of the principles, techniques, and content of the motor carrier safety program, and knowledge of the problems and operating practices of motor carriers.
  • The principal characteristic of positions classified in this series is inspection, investigative, promotional, and educational work directed toward regulatory compliance to correct a wide variety of unsafe, illegal, and potentially hazardous conditions and activities associated with the commercial operation of motor vehicles and the highway transportation of hazardous materials. This work, which is akin to Federal economic regulation of the motor carrier industry, attempts to diminish the injury, death, and property damage caused by motor vehicle accidents involving motor carriers, and to provide a safer driving environment for the motoring public. It accomplishes these goals by promoting good safety practices in compliance with applicable Federal regulations by commercial motor carriers of cargo and passengers who operate in interstate and foreign commerce.

    The industry addressed by this regulatory effort is a sprawling, complex, highly diversified segment of the nation's transportation system. Subject to all or parts of the Federal motor carrier safety or hazardous materials regulations are over 150,000 carriers of record involved in interstate or foreign commerce. These carriers operate, under a wide variety of contract arrangements and authorities, over 3 million medium and heavy commercial vehicles hauling everything from general freight to foodstuffs or people, and employ approximately 5 million full- or part-time drivers. Carriers include common, private, and contract carriers, and range in size from owner-operator businesses to international or multi-million dollar corporations employing thousands of vehicles and drivers. Included are shippers of hazardous materials (e.g., chemicals, paints, fuels, fertilizers, poisons, explosives, radioactive materials), and manufacturers of containers for use in transporting such materials.

    Given the size and diffusion of the industry, the free flow of commerce, and the practical impossibility of closely supervising the vast number of carriers, vehicles, drivers, and roadway miles involved, the success of the regulatory effort rests heavily on securing the voluntary compliance of motor carrier operators and their employees.

    Functional Areas of Work

    Most positions in this series perform a wide range of duties in achieving their primary objectives (i.e., those above the trainee levels) of personally promoting and enforcing the Federal motor carrier safety program in a defined geographic area.1 Such an area would include a number of counties or other subdivisions of a State. (The size and other characteristics of territorial assignments are discussed in greater detail below.) Typically, these positions function in one-and two-person field offices situated near places where motor carrier terminals are concentrated. Some of these positions combine compliance enforcement responsibility for a territory with responsibility for overall administration and coordination of program activities in an entire State. Such duties may involve some supervision of one or more employees, each of whom may have responsibility for promoting the program in a territory.

    There are other field positions, typically located in the agency's regional offices, which do not entail responsibility for a territory as such, but do involve performing many of the same kinds of enforcement and safety promotion activities as needed anywhere in the region. This broader role (i.e., for a multi-state area) is usually focused on a particular area of program specialization, such as regulation of hazardous materials or accident investigation and prevention, and includes region wide program management, development, and evaluation responsibility for the area of specialization. The assignment may involve such things as directing or coordinating the day-to-day administration of the specialized program area by the employees scattered throughout the region, and monitoring all work related to that area to insure uniformity of interpretation and enforcement and to identify problem areas. The assignment may involve developing guidance material to keep the region's employees, and others with an interest, aware of technical developments and changes in regulations, policies, or program emphasis. The work generally involves providing special expertise concerning interpretation of the regulations or program requirements, and resolution of unusual or particularly difficult and time-consuming safety or compliance problems.

    Still other positions in this series are concerned primarily with researching and drafting regulations and advisory materials for use by the industry and/or by field personnel. Among other things, such work involves analyzing and answering comments submitted in response to proposed rulemaking actions, or conducting special studies to identify and research regulatory problem areas. These positions, as those described in the paragraph above, tend to be "specialist" as opposed to "generalist" because of the broader scope of responsibilities and/or the lesser emphasis on inspection and investigative work.

    The following discussion and the factor level descriptions and benchmark descriptions provided later in the standard will primarily reflect the work of the positions in the field which constitute the major portion of the occupation.

    While each geographic area is unique in the particular mix of carriers and shippers that are domiciled there, territorial assignments tend to be structured in such a way as to be roughly comparable to one another in terms of the number and variety of companies and problems with which the position might deal. Physical size of a territory depends largely on geography, traffic volume, and carrier concentrations and distributions. A territorial assignment may encompass an entire State. More typically, an assignment encompasses part of a State or portions of several States, and includes one or more metropolitan areas. It is home to 1000-1500 motor carriers, most of which are small or medium sized companies employing less than 100 drivers. The area also domiciles a number of shippers of hazardous commodities and large to very large companies employing more than 100 to several thousand drivers and vehicles.

    A similar set of duties is carried out in each territory with individual employees allocating time and resources according to local needs and program priorities. These needs change, necessitating frequent reordering of competing priorities as new problems are identified. The distinction between one assignment and another is not so much based on differences in the composition of the areas' carrier populations, but rather is based on the extent to which the individual employees attempt to resolve the full range of problems to be found, and on the degree to which they exercise independent responsibility for planning and carrying out the work. For example, less experienced employees work an assigned territory under the general supervision of a more senior employee, and may be somewhat restricted in initiating or pursuing particular types of activity where problems are likely to be encountered. Experienced employees would not operate under those same restraints and would have much more leeway in initiating enforcement investigations or indepth accident investigations.

    Work Activity

    In any territory, there is a constant turnover in the carrier population, as some companies are formed and others go out of business.

    Of necessity, the work activity concentrates on those motor carriers with a history of noncompliance or those who never have been surveyed or the subject of complaints or accident and hazardous materials incident reports. The principal areas of regulation for which minimum standards are set and enforced, and around which work activities center, are:

  • qualifications of drivers;
  • driving of motor vehicles;
  • parts and accessories necessary for safe operation;
  • notification, reporting, and recording of accidents and incidents involving hazardous materials;
  • hours of service of drivers;
  • vehicle inspection and maintenance; and
  • transportation and shipment of hazardous materials.
  • An area work program is developed within the general constraints of program resource limitations, regional and national program priorities and emphasis, and local problems and population characteristics. It typically includes a mix of the following types of activities:

    1. Safety Review -- This activity comprises the largest single component (though not necessarily the most difficult or grade controlling part) of the work of the motor carrier safety specialist. It involves identifying and documenting unsafe and illegal motor carrier activity, to encourage and assist motor carriers in obtaining and maintaining a higher level of compliance with applicable safety regulations. Included under this heading are a variety of distinct activities, such as:

    Safety and hazardous materials compliance surveys are periodic reviews of carriers' dispatching, maintenance, inspection, and operating practices. Such surveys might be generated by the specialist's area work plan, by reports of illegal or unsafe activity, or by special assignment in response to a specific problem (e.g., an unusually high accident ratio for a particular carrier or group of carriers).

    A safety survey typically begins with the specialist's review of agency files for relevant facts about the carrier and for any evidence of past compliance problems. This review, which sometimes provides leads as to the particular violations or other problems most likely to be encountered, is followed by a visit (usually without advance warning) to the carrier's terminal or place of business. At that time, a random sample of records covering a specific period of time is examined for evidence of illegal and unsafe practices. Records selected for examination include driver personnel files, drivers' logs, accident registers, complaint files, and vehicle inspection, repair, and maintenance records. While these records (many of which carriers are obliged to maintain and surrender for inspection and copying) constitute multiple sources of information, any or all of these records might be disorganized, scattered, falsified, or otherwise unreliable. Depending on such things as company size and attitude toward safety and Federal regulation, carrier officials might attempt to bury evidence of violations in the volume of paperwork.

    Where violations of the regulations are indicated, or if record falsification or duplication is suspected, the specialist determines what corroborative documents might be available and persuades the carrier to produce those documents for examination. By comparing various required written records and other documents less subject to falsification, the specialist documents the extent and seriousness of the compliance problem. The specialist also interviews drivers and other company officials and employees to verify or explain the facts or to assess their familiarity with those parts of the regulations with which they are obliged to comply. Often these individuals are apprehensive or uncooperative.

    Through factfinding the specialist establishes a basis upon which a plan for corrective action can be developed.

    Before leaving the carrier's office, the specialist provides the responsible company managers and corporate officials with a written notice of violations, discusses with them the applicable regulations and safety problems found, interprets misunderstood parts of regulations, and offers assistance in developing a plan for obtaining and maintaining compliance. At the same time, the specialist discusses the prospect of a follow up inspection at a latter date and further administrative other agency action (discussed below) if serious and willful noncompliance persists. Depending on the assessment of the situation and the results of any subsequent follow up inspection, the specialist will close the case without further action; will recommend that the agency pursue civil, criminal, or other legal sanctions against the company or individuals; or, if legal action is assured, will initiate an investigation to compile and organize whatever additional documentation is necessary to sustain the planned agency or government action.

    A hazardous materials survey may be done separately or in conjunction with a safety survey, and it follows the same general format discussed above. However, the focus and applicable regulations are different, and the companies surveyed include manufacturers and container reconditioning plants as well as carriers and shippers of hazardous materials. In the course of a survey, the specialist must determine which products the firm ships are classified as hazardous materials. This usually requires checking with the company chemist (or the manufacturer, if different from the shipper) or other official who has knowledge of the makeup of the products. Since many products are compounds of a number of substances, one or more of which might be hazardous, it may also involve determining whether the resulting mixture at its given strength constitutes a hazard. While specialists need not possess a professional background in chemistry to do this work, they must be able to use chemical dictionaries and understand and interpret chemical terminology. They also must keep abreast of the ever-increasing number and variety of items classifiable in the different categories of hazardous materials (e.g., explosives, compressed gases, flammable gases, liquids and solids, oxidizing materials, corrosives, poisons, radioactive materials, etc.), and with a growing body of regulations.

    During the onsite visit, the specialist reviews the company's procedures for packaging, labeling, storing, and transporting its hazardous items to assess compliance with applicable regulations and specifications. Where applicable, procedures for reconditioning containers to be used in such transport are also reviewed. Often it is necessary to determine whether the company has been issued any exemptions from parts of the regulations. The review includes inspection of containers, personal observation of handling procedures on the loading dock, tracing the paper flow of items shipped, and interviewing company employees to determine whether they are aware of and observe applicable regulations and related company safety procedures as they perform their handling, dispatching, and/or driving duties.

  • roadside vehicle equipment and driver inspections, provide a means of assessing carriers' compliance under operating conditions. These unannounced spot check inspections are generally conducted in coordination with State and local authorities at State weigh stations, toll booths, ports of entry, bus terminals, or other such places that would allow safe inspection of the vehicles. Frequently, a team approach, geared toward sampling specific safety problems or problem carriers, is used. This may involve coordinated inspections at various points around the region or around the country. In conducting a road check, the specialist selects those vehicles to be inspected, which usually are those with obvious defects or from companies with known or suspected problems. After determining that the vehicle is operating in interstate or foreign commerce or is otherwise subject to Federal safety regulation, the specialist proceeds with a thorough visual and audio inspection of the vehicle's condition, its loading, and looks for worn, defective, or missing parts. Items inspected include: lighting and electrical systems, cables, braking systems, fuel systems, coupling devices, tires, emergency equipment, and other critical parts and accessories. If the vehicle is found to be carrying hazardous materials, shipping papers, containers, blocking, labeling, and placarding are also examined. In all cases, the specialist examines the driver's logbooks and other documents (e.g., license and medical certificate) certifying the driver's qualifications.
  • Inspections typically require from 30 to 60 minutes for each vehicle. An inspection form, noting all violations found, and indicating what corrective action the carrier must take, is completed and a copy given to the driver. If a vehicle's condition is found to be imminently hazardous or likely to result in an accident or breakdown if it returns to the highway (e.g., because of inoperative or defective brakes, or a cracked fifth-wheel), it may be declared "out of service" and not driven until the defect is repaired. Also, a driver may be declared "out of service" if the individual represents a hazard because of fatigue or other causes; or if inspection of the driver's log discloses driving in excess of permitted hours, the driver may not resume driving until the problem is remedied.

  • noise control inspections include routine roadside checks of interior and exterior noise levels of trucks and buses. Such inspections involve setting up a test area, calibrating the sound level meters, and taking a number of noise level readings under prescribed conditions.
  • cargo security surveys include inspections of carriers' terminal facilities to identify cargo security problems and to advise on ways of remedying cargo theft and security problems.
  • driver handicap waivers involve issuing waivers to handicapped individuals who can demonstrate the ability to operate a vehicle in interstate or foreign commerce.
  • This requires considerable judgment in balancing fairness to the individual seeking the waiver and overall safety considerations.

    2. Enforcement -- Serious violations of the motor carrier safety regulations are investigated to develop evidence for enforcement actions by the agency. Such action is aimed at bringing those involved into compliance and encouraging other carriers to achieve better compliance. Investigations also are conducted to determine the validity of complaints or allegations of violations brought by the public, employees, or other governmental agencies (e.g., an allegation that a carrier is requiring its drivers to exceed the hours of service limits and maintain false logs to hide the fact; or that a carrier has been taking adverse action against drivers who refuse to participate in such activity). Enforcement cases are often precipitated by safety problems or patterns surfacing in the course of a vehicle inspection, safety survey, accident investigation, or routine analysis of a carrier's file.

    Investigations vary considerably in terms of depth (i.e., the lengths to which the specialist must go to resolve the critical issues raised) and the degree of cooperation offered by the individuals involved. They also differ in terms of the complexity of the applicable regulations; the nature and seriousness of the violations or allegations; and the quantity, type, and availability of documentary evidence needed to support the planned action.

    A full scale investigation typically involves interviewing and taking statements from such persons as drivers, platform workers, clerks, secretaries, maintenance personnel, and corporate officials. The specialist selects, examines, and copies pertinent documents to establish the frequency and nature of the violations and to depict any patterns which exist. After analyzing and evaluating these findings, the specialist organizes the information and exhibits into a detailed written report portraying the carriers past and recent record of noncompliance and the agency's efforts to elicit compliance.

    Judgment, objectivity, and imagination are required in recognizing and exploiting leads to necessary information, and in determining and documenting whether violations found are deliberate and conscious. The specialist makes a preliminary determination whether prosecution is warranted, whether evidence is sufficient to support pursuing enforcement action, and which violations are most serious and representative and likely to be successfully prosecuted. Investigations which determine that prosecution is not warranted are closed administratively by the specialist. Reports of investigations which disclosed serious violations are referred to agency reviewing officials for approval and any further action. The government attorneys who use the report as the basis for the enforcement proceedings may not possess specialized knowledge of the industry and have to rely heavily on the work done by the specialist. Enforcement proceedings may result in criminal charges, civil forfeiture or fines, or may involve administrative cease and desist orders, disregard of which may result in the agency's petitioning for government suspension or revocation of the carrier's operating authority. The safety specialist on occasion may be called upon to testify in a court or administrative proceeding as the government's expert witness on motor carrier safety or as a witness to the facts of an investigation.

    3. Accident Investigation -- Included in this work category are investigations into the causes of highway accidents and hazardous materials incidents involving motor carriers. The purposes of such investigations are to determine the facts, conditions, and circumstances of the occurrences; to identify the contributing factors and probable cause(s) without regard to culpability and liability; to determine whether Federal laws or regulations were violated; to evaluate the adequacy of existing regulations; to generate recommendations for refining the regulations or for remedial action to prevent similar accidents; and to develop information for the agency's safety education and accident prevention efforts.

    Upon hearing of an accident involving a motor carrier, the motor carrier safety specialist in that area initiates a preliminary investigation of the known facts and circumstances of the accident. Sometimes the causes of the accident are made apparent from a few simple observations or discussions; at other times there may be no apparent explanation. Depending on such factors as the dollar amount of property damage, the number of fatalities, available staff, anticipated public or industry interest, or circumstances that offer information useful to the agency's accident prevention efforts, a decision is made on whether to proceed with an indepth investigation. Typically the specialist would consult with the regional director and/or other regional authority concerning any special factors that must be considered. An indepth investigation begins with a thorough examination of the vehicle wreckage, the roadway, and the overall accident scene for evidence of the equipment malfunction, structural failure, or environmental factors contributing to the accident. The accident investigator diagrams the accident; takes road, skid, and other relevant measurements; and photographs the scene. Pertinent photographs or other information obtained by the police, emergency response personnel, or the media are also obtained. Throughout the investigation, the specialist must decide which of the many available avenues of investigation are most likely to be productive. Local law enforcement personnel, repair crews, participants, and nonparticipant eyewitnesses are interviewed, as are carrier officials and fellow employees, relatives or friends of the driver, and others if such interviews are judged relevant to establishing the circumstances leading to the accident.

    The specialist seeks out traffic records and other documents detailing the driver's qualification, employment and driving record, and medical history for information relevant to the case. The employee also may review accident statistics for patterns of accidents occurring under similar conditions. Sometimes metallurgical tests or simulation studies are arranged. Finally, all data are analyzed and organized into a factual narrative report with supporting exhibits and documentation. This report reconstructs the series of events leading up to and encompassing the accident and includes a determination as to probable cause. Usually, the investigation also yields recommendations for preventive or corrective action (e.g., additional driver training, new or amended regulations, modification of the design of vehicle equipment, or roadway redesign).

    Usually, the safety specialist assigned to an accident investigation works as the sole Federal official assigned to the case, but in cooperation with State and local investigating authorities. However, certain major accidents, involving multiple points of investigation and extending across regional boundaries, or spectacular accidents which have generated widespread public or industry interest, may involve a team effort. In such cases, the regional specialist may lead or coordinate the activity of the other specialists. Where such an investigation is led or coordinated by an employee from another agency, as occasionally happens, the specialist may be assigned responsibility for doing a certain part of the overall investigation.

    A variety of factors may contribute to the difficulty of investigating an accident:

  • the natural confusion at the scene of an accident, and the unintentional or de facto destruction or alteration of evidence by curious bystanders, wrecker crews, or fire;
  • the physical location of the accident and the time lag in the investigator's getting to the scene before it is altered;
  • the fact that the wreckage, witnesses, or participants are frequently scattered and difficult to locate;
  • the fact that all witnesses to the accident are dead or are bereaved, hysterical, or otherwise unwilling or unable to cooperate;
  • contradictory statements from witnesses or participants reluctant to talk because of liability implications;
  • the involvement of hazardous materials, not always appropriately marked;
  • the pressures of public and private interest in the accident (e.g., Members of Congress with interested constituents, government and industry organizations, employee unions, insurance companies, and equipment manufacturers);
  • the involvement of unique types of equipment (e.g., a new kind of brake or tank car) or other circumstances for which there are no precedents;
  • weather conditions, which make site documentation difficult;
  • involvement with other Federal, State, and local government agencies with varying interests in the accident and its investigation;
  • the range of possible causes (e.g., environmental, mechanical, and human) of any particular highway accident.
  • As with enforcement investigations, accident investigators must use considerable judgment, tact, and creativity to elicit the cooperation of others and to develop the essential facts upon which conclusions can be drawn.

    4. Safety Education and Technical Assistance. Included in this category is the technical assistance provided to carriers and others in the course of onsite surveys, telephone conversations, meetings, and safety seminars. Safety specialists advise carriers of their responsibilities under the law, interpret regulations, and aid in diagnosing and resolving persistent safety, compliance, or cargo security problems. They also organize, participate in, or conduct informational or training programs and meetings for drivers, industry representatives, and State and local emergency response and law enforcement personnel. Topics covered include the Federal motor carrier safety program, the regulations, pretrip vehicle inspections, logkeeping, accident prevention, accident investigation techniques, and hazardous materials problems. This activity, plus the answering of public inquiries on the same range of topics, is aimed at broadening program impact and lessening the need for enforcement action by encouraging higher levels of cooperation and voluntary compliance by motor carriers.

    Also included under this category is work directed toward developing, updating, and expanding formal cooperative agreements with State and local law enforcement and other government agencies. Such agreements cover, among other things, exchange of information, promotion and enforcement of a uniform motor carrier safety and hazardous materials program, and joint enforcement and inspection activities. Substantive personal contacts and related work associated with developing these agreements are usually reserved for senior safety specialists, who typically are assigned to State capitals. While much of this activity consists of routine personal contacts and information exchange for updating and maintaining agreements already in place, it may also involve informal review of proposed State legislation for consistency with Federal regulations, negotiating new agreements, or encouraging State agencies to cooperate among themselves in exchanging information and ideas.

    Nature of Investigative Work

    As in other occupations involving investigative work in a regulatory compliance setting, motor carrier safety specialists employ a variety of standard investigative techniques and practices, including: case development, interviewing and interrogation of witnesses, record searches, examination of physical evidence, collecting and refining the data, developing and exploiting leads, assessing the accuracy and reliability of documentary evidence, recognizing and resolving discrepancies in the reported "facts," and organizing the material into a clear, concise, objective report of the facts. While specialists are authorized by law to inspect carriers' facilities and equipment and to examine and copy any and all business documents, they nevertheless must rely heavily on the good will and cooperation of those with whom they deal. Consequently, they must exercise tact and judgment in these personal contacts, must deal impartially and intelligently with all, and must take care to respect the rights of the individuals or business entities being contacted. Specialists must be able to express themselves clearly on technical matters, draw unbiased conclusions from all of the facts, conditions, and circumstances of a case, and decide on the appropriate course of action to deal effectively with the situation. Moreover, they must be able to work under some degree of pressure, even under relatively hazardous conditions as in the inspection of a vehicle or in the investigation of an accident involving a hazardous material. While firmly enforcing the regulations, specialists must be sensitive to the economic and social pressures on drivers and carriers, persuading economically hard-pressed individuals and companies to comply voluntarily.

    Motor Carrier Specialist, GS-2123-05


    This is a trainee position located in an agency's regional motor carrier safety office. Duties are designed to: (a) familiarize the employee with the principles and methods of the Federal motor carrier safety program, the regulations enforced, the procedures of the office, and the organization and operating practices of the industry, and (b) relieve higher graded employees of some of the more routine work. The employee:

  • Studies instructional materials, the operations manual, and the safety regulations which frame the Federal motor carrier safety program;
  • Receives classroom and on-the-job training in motor carrier safety, basic inspection and investigative techniques, vehicle mechanical systems and equipment, the function and operations of the agency and office, and application of Federal safety laws and Regulations to motor carrier operating practices;
  • Assists higher grade specialists by performing portions of the work under their guidance. Such tasks include:
  • reviewing and summarizing relevant information in the agency's investigative files to provide higher grade specialists possible leads in their planning and preparing for safety surveys or complaint investigations;
  • reviewing and comparing payroll or personnel records from carrier files in an onsite compliance survey for evidence of obvious violations of the hours of service, recordkeeping, or other applicable regulations; and preparing work sheets and summary reports of the results;
  • interviewing carrier employees to obtain routine factual information relevant to an inspection or investigation; making follow up inquiries in an enforcement case or accident investigation;
  • conducting parts of roadside vehicle inspections and noise level checks of trucks and buses to detect missing, worn, or defective parts (e.g., brakes, coupling devices, lights, emergency equipment);
  • drafting letters, memoranda, or internal reports on a variety of subjects to answer specific questions from the general public, agency officials, industry representatives, or others;
  • tabulating accident or cargo security data; reviewing and updating agency lists of motor carriers of record.
  • Motor Carrier Specialist, GS-2123-07


    This is an advanced trainee position located in an agency's regional motor carrier safety office. The assignments are designed to expose the employee to a wide range of program functions and to refine program knowledge and inspection and investigative skills to allow performance of higher level duties. At the same time, the duties provide technical support to higher grade employees conducting onsite safety and hazardous materials surveys, inspections, and accident and enforcement investigations. The training process includes both formal classroom instruction and intensive on-the-job training. The employee:

  • Studies instructional materials, the operations manual, and the motor carrier safety and hazardous materials regulations which govern the Federal motor carrier safety program;
  • Receives classroom and on-the-job training in motor carrier safety, the placarding and handling requirements for transporting hazardous materials, the techniques for accident site documentation and interviewing witnesses, standard inspection and investigative techniques, and the special operating characteristics and problems of the various classes of motor carriers;
  • Develops skill in standard work techniques by performing portions of assignments under the guidance of higher grade specialists. Such duties include:
  • reviewing and summarizing information in the agency's investigative files to assist other specialists in preparing for a safety survey or complaint investigation by identifying specific problem areas that might need particularly close review;
  • planning and conducting entire segments of relatively routine onsite safety surveys (e.g., those involving a carrier with less than 20 drivers, a positive attitude toward compliance, and no past history of serious noncompliance); selecting a representative sample from the carrier's payroll, personnel, maintenance, or other records; reviewing and comparing them for discrepancies or other evidence of violations of the hours of service, driver qualifications, or other applicable regulations; recording and reporting the results; and, after analyzing the facts and circumstances of the case, recommending appropriate corrective action and advising the carrier on resolving the compliance problems;
  • onducting roadside inspections of trucks and buses to detect missing, worn, or defective parts or to detect drivers operating in excess of the allowable hours of service or without the required license and medical certificate; conducting routine interior and exterior vehicle noise level checks; inspecting hazardous materials shipments for proper placarding; completing the inspection forms citing the drivers and/or carriers for the violations found;
  • interviewing witnesses, participants, or others knowledgeable about an accident, incident, or complaint to obtain factual information;
  • performing follow up inquiries in an enforcement case or accident investigation; assisting in an accident investigation by taking measurements of the accident scene, by taking photographs or preparing diagrams of the site, or by compiling and organizing pieces of documentation for the final report;
  • drafting letters, memoranda, or internal reports on a variety of subjects to answer specific questions on agency policy or procedures from the general public, agency officials, industry representatives or others;
  • tabulating accident, incident, or cargo security data; reviewing and updating agency files on motor carriers of record.
  • Motor Carrier Specialist, GS-2123-09


    This position is located in an agency's regional motor carrier safety office. The specialist is assigned limited responsibility for promoting and enforcing the Federal motor carrier safety regulations, hazardous materials regulations, and other applicable regulations in a specific territory. Assignments involve small or medium sized carriers having a relatively good compliance history and/or a compliance problem predicated more on ignorance of the law and appropriate safety practices than willful violation of the regulations. Assignments are designed to involve the specialist in managing an areawide program and in planning and performing the full range of compliance functions. They serve to further refine the specialist's program knowledge and skills by providing opportunities to deal independently with a wide variety of problems normally encountered in implementing a compliance program. The employee:

  • Independently plans, prepares for, and conducts complete safety and hazardous materials compliance surveys of carrier's dispatching, maintenance, inspection, and operating practices to assess compliance with applicable regulations;
  • Investigate complaints of violations of the hours of service or other applicable regulations when no precedent-setting problems are anticipated and standard factfinding techniques are generally adequate; if necessary, collects documentation for prosecution;
  • Plans, coordinates, and conducts roadside inspections of trucks and buses to detect excessively high noise levels, missing, worn or defective parts, or to detect drivers operating in excess of allowable hours of service or without the required driving papers; inspects vehicles transporting hazardous materials for compliance with all applicable shipping and handling requirements; and places out-of-service those vehicles or drivers posing an imminent danger of an accident or breakdown;
  • Conducts routine investigations of accidents involving motor carriers or incidents involving hazardous materials to determine the facts and probable cause(s) of the occurrences, to determine whether Federal laws and regulations were violated, and to generate recommendations for remedial action to prevent similar accidents;
  • Promotes voluntary compliance with the motor carrier safety regulations by giving safety talks and demonstrations to drivers on such things as log preparation and pretrip inspection techniques; provides carrier officials with interpretations and explanations of the regulations; and assists them in identifying and resolving potential safety compliance problems;
  • Prepares written reports of inspections and investigations and drafts letters and memoranda to answer questions on a variety of subjects from the general public, agency officials, industry representatives, and others;
  • Assists higher grade specialists by performing some of the factfinding and documentation duties in very complex surveys, indepth accident investigations, or enforcement cases where the evidence is scattered or hidden or where widespread and deliberate falsification of records to cover up flagrant and serious violation of the regulations is suspected;
  • Assists higher grade specialists in preparing for, and participates in, meetings with State and local government officials, employees of other Federal agencies, and representatives of the motor carrier industry and individual carriers; through discussions promotes increased cooperation, uniformity of action, and/or methods for achieving mutual goals and voluntary compliance with the safety regulations;
  • Receives additional classroom and on-the-job training in accident investigation techniques and transportation and handling of hazardous materials.
  • Motor Carrier Specialist, GS-2123-11


    This position is located in an agency's motor carrier safety field office. The specialist is assigned ongoing responsibility for personally administering the Federal motor carrier safety program in a specific territory. This territory encompasses parts of two states and several metropolitan areas, and is home to 1,000 to 1,500 motor carriers of all types and sizes. In promoting and enforcing carrier compliance with the Federal motor carrier safety regulations, the hazardous materials regulations, and other applicable laws and regulations, the specialist acts independently within general program objectives and a largely self-developed and self-adjusted area work plan. The employee:

  • Analyzes survey and inspection results, accident and incident reports, complaints, and other information to identify safety and compliance problems or trends among the motor carriers and shippers in the assigned areas; assists in developing an annual area work planning guide for the territory consistent with national and regional goals and emphasis, but geared to address the most critical local problems; and within the framework of the plan performs the following duties:
  • independently plans and carries out a schedule of periodic safety and hazardous materials compliance surveys of carrier and shipper operations; through personal interviews, examination of various carrier records, and comparison with other known facts, determines whether the company is in compliance or whether the violations found indicate deliberate and conscious disregard of applicable regulations; makes a
  • preliminary determination whether prosecution is warranted and evidence is sufficient to support enforcement action; if not warranted, discusses the findings with corporation officials, offers technical assistance in resolving the problems, and secures their agreement to take corrective action; follows up at a later time to ascertain compliance;
  • conducts investigations into alleged violations either as follow-up to a survey or in response to complaints; upon advice and approval by the supervisor, initiates enforcement investigations to develop supportive evidence of the kinds and volume needed to sustain criminal or civil forfeiture actions, cease and desist orders, or other proceedings; documents in detail the frequency and nature of the violations, any patterns which exist, and circumstances which prove deliberate and conscious violation of applicable regulations; closes investigations administratively upon concurrence of the supervisor when investigation shows that enforcement is unjustified;
  • refers investigative reports disclosing serious violations to the supervisor for review and approval of action proposed;
  • plans and conducts unannounced roadside inspections of interstate commercial motor vehicles and drivers' documentation to spot-check over-the-road operating practices and carrier or driver compliance with applicable safety regulations; notes deficiencies and declares out-of-service any vehicles found to be imminently hazardous to highway safety, or any driver found to be unqualified or in violation of the hours-of-service regulations;
  • conducts indepth investigations into the causes of highway accidents and hazardous materials incidents involving motor carriers to determine whether Federal laws have been violated and to develop information for use in refining the regulations and in furthering the agency's accident prevention program; organizes the facts and information accumulated through interviews, physical examination of the wreckage and accident scene, and other means into a detailed written report identifying the probable cause(s) of the event and proposing recommendations for preventive action; participates as a team member in investigations of major accidents involving such things as multiple fatalities, technically unusual circumstances, or widespread public or industry interest;
  • provides technical assistance and information, frequently as an organizer or participant in safety meetings, seminars, or training programs, on the Federal program, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials transportation safety, and other topics to carrier officials and employees, industry representatives, State and local law enforcement and emergency response personnel, and others interested in highway safety; provides written or oral interpretations of the regulations within the framework of the operations manual and other guides; drafts letters, memoranda, and internal reports to respond to questions on a variety of technical subjects;
  • maintains liaison and effective working relations with other Federal and State officials involved in highway safety;
  • evaluates petitions for a waiver from limited portions of the Federal safety regulations, and makes recommendations to approve or deny the waiver.
  • Keeps abreast of industry problems and trends, vehicle technology, rapidly changing hazardous materials developments, the activities of other Federal, State and local agencies, State regulations relative to motor carrier safety, and legal interpretations and court rulings that impact the program.
  • Individual Occupational Requirements


    Undergraduate and Graduate Education: Major study -- accounting, business administration, business or commercial law, commerce, economics, engineering, finance, industrial management, statistics, traffic management, transportation, motor mechanics, or other fields related to the position.



    General Experience (for GS-5 positions): Experience that provided a general knowledge of business, commerce, data processing, transportation, or other related fields.

    Specialized Experience (for positions above GS-5):

    Examples of qualifying specialized experience include:

    • Federal or State regulatory agency or private enterprise work as an investigator, safety or compliance inspector, or safety specialist that required a working knowledge of motor carrier safety regulations and procedures; or that involved compliance enforcement, accident investigation; or related duties.

    • Trucking association, motor carrier, national employee union, or similar work that required substantial knowledge of the Federal or State motor carrier safety and hazardous materials programs (i.e., laws, regulations, standards, policies, and practices), and that involved developing or providing technical guidance to carriers covering such areas as equipment standards, safe operating practices, driver qualifications and hours of work, procedures for handling hazardous materials, loss prevention techniques, or procedures for maintaining compliance with Federal or State motor carrier safety regulations.

    • Collecting, analyzing, and evaluating a complex body of data pertaining to motor carrier investigations, compliance reviews, business operations of companies, transportation industry, or other related subjects, using personal computers or other means, resolving conflicting data, and presenting concise written or oral reports of findings.

    Sources of Additional Information

    Information about jobs with a particular airline can be obtained by writing to the personnel manager of the company.

    Information on obtaining Motor Carrier Safety Specialist positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.

    Source: OPM's Position Classification Standards for White Collar Work

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