Other Fields
Agency Scheme: 
Hearing Level: Basic Structure
Name of Hearing Office (local name): 
Office of Hearings
Name of Hearing Office (global name): 
Department of Transportation: Office of Hearings
Hearing Officer #1 (Title): 
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
Hearing Officer #2 (Title): 
Hearing Officer/Assistant Administrator & Chief Safety Officer
Are administrative appeals permitted from final decisions at the hearing-level stage?: 
Yes (Some Types of Cases)
Comments/Notes on Adjudication Structure: 

-This scheme focuses on the rules for 'formal' adjudications, which are the primary topic of 49 CFR Part 386. That Part states that it "govern[s] proceedings before the Assistant Administrator, who also acts as the Chief Safety Officer of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration." 49 CFR 386.1. After receiving a notice of claim from the agency, the alleged violator or "respondent" has the option of requesting in its reply (i) to submit written evidence to the Assistant Administrator without a hearing; (ii) to have an informal hearing before a Hearing Officer who submits recommended findings that the Assistant Administrator may adopt or modify; or (iii) to have a formal hearing before an ALJ from the DOT Office of Hearings. See 49 CFR 386.14, 386.16, 386.61. Therefore, the ALJ (i.e., the 'formal' adjudicator) is referred to as the primary hearing officer, with the Hearing Officer and the Assistant Administrator sharing the secondary hearing officer label for cases where 'informal' or no hearings are selected.
-The regulations delegate appellate authority to the Assistant Administrator. See 49 CFR 386.61(a), 386.62 - 386.63. In those cases where the Assistant Administrator acts as one of the initial adjudicators (see categories (i) and (ii) above, he simply issues a final decision and no administrative appeal is available. See 49 CFR 386.16(a), (b)(4)(i)(A); 49 CFR 386.61(b). Thus, the Assistant Administrator is referred to as the appellate officer, understanding that these appeal procedures only apply to the 'formal' cases previously before ALJs.

PROCESS & PROCEDURE - General Information
Are private parties permitted to have representation at hearings?: 
Yes (All Types of Cases)
Who may serve as a private party representative?: 
Is the agency permitted to have representation at hearings?: 
Yes (All Types of Cases)
Who may serve as an agency representative?: 
Regulations/rules of practice for hearings (please include CFR citations): 
49 CFR 386.1 - 386.61, 386.81 - 386.84
Other published guidance for hearings (if any): 
PROCESS & PROCEDURE - Pre-Hearing Procedure
Is discovery permitted by either party at the hearing-level stage?: 
Yes (Some Types of Cases)
Briefly describe the scope and type(s) of discovery available (e.g., depositions, interrogatories, etc.): 
-In 'informal' hearing cases, "no discovery will be allowed." 49 CFR 386.16(b)(4)(i)(A). In 'formal' hearing cases, discovery methods include depositions, interrogatories, requests for production, physical/mental examinations, and requests for admission. See 49 CFR 386.37(a)
Does the hearing officer have subpoena authority?: 
Yes (Some Types of Cases)
Are ex parte contacts prohibited?: 
Yes (Some Types of Cases)
Are parties provided notice of hearing?: 
Yes (All Types of Cases)
PROCESS & PROCEDURE - Hearing Procedure
What types of hearings are permitted at the hearing-level stage?: 
Written (Document-Only) Hearing
How is the type of hearing selected: 
By Agency
By Private Party
How many hearing officers preside at each hearing?: 
Varies by Case
If "Varies by Case," please describe: 
-In cases where an ALJ is selected or the Assistant Administrator receives written evidence without a hearing, only one hearing officer presides. In cases where the respondent selects an 'informal' hearing, however, the Assistant Administrator assigns a Hearing Officer to receive the evidence and report recommended findings back to him. See 49 CFR 386.16(b)(4)(i)(A), 386.61(b). Hence, while many cases have only one hearing officer, some can have two exercising different roles.
Is witness testimony permitted at hearings?: 
Varies by Case
If "Varies by Case," please describe: 
-In 'formal' hearings before ALJs and in 'informal' hearings before Hearing Officers, witness testimony is permitted. See 49 CFR 386.2, 386.16(b)(4)(i)(A). In cases where the respondent elects to submit written evidence to the Assistant Administrator in lieu of a hearing, however, no live witness testimony is provided. See 49 CFR 386.16(a).
Can parties cross-examine witnesses?: 
Varies by Case
If "Varies by Case," please describe: 
-The regulations expressly permit cross-examination only in so-called 'formal' hearings. See 49 CFR 386.2 ("Formal hearing means an evidentiary hearing on the record in which parties have the opportunity to . . . cross-examine witnesses"). In 'informal' hearings, parties are only guaranteed the right to "present evidence, written and oral, to the Hearing Officer." See 49 CFR 386.16(b)(4)(i)(A). Cross-examination does not occur in cases where only written evidence is submitted to the Assistant Administrator. See 49 CFR 386.16(a).
Can third-parties submit amicus briefs and/or evidence?: 
Adjudication Officer Discretion
Are hearings recorded and/or transcribed?: 
N/A (Document-Only Hearings)
Are hearings open to the public?: 
Varies by Case
If "Varies by Case," please describe: 
-When the respondent elects to submit written evidence to the Assistant Administrator in lieu of a hearing, there is no hearing to open to the public. 49 CFR 358.56(b) mandates that hearings before ALJs be open to the public unless the ALJ orders otherwise, but no similar provision exists for 'informal' hearings before a Hearing Officer.
PROCESS & PROCEDURE - Post-Hearing Procedure
Who typically drafts the decision at the hearing-level stage?: 
Adjudication Officer
If "Other," please specify (drafts): 
In 'informal' cases, the Hearing Officer submits a report of proposed findings to the Assistant Administrator, who issues a "Final Agency Order" adopting or modifying them. See 49 CFR 386.61(b).
Who has authority to issue final decisions?: 
Adjudication Officer
Do agency regulations or guidance provide time limits for issuance of final decisions?: 
Is judicial review available after issuance of a final decision?: 
Yes (Some Types of Cases)
PROCESS & PROCEDURE - Case Management
Does the agency permit web-based electronic filing of hearing-related briefs or other documents?: 
Are final decisions published and/or posted on the agency website?: 
Yes (All Decisions)
Do agency regulations/rules of practice specify the contents of the administrative record at the hearing-level stage?: 
Yes (All Types of Cases)
If "Yes," please provide citation(s): 
-For 'formal' hearings: "The transcript, exhibits, and other documents filed in the proceedings shall constitute the official record of the proceedings." 49 CFR 386.5(e). -For 'informal' hearings: "At [the] hearing, all parties may present evidence, written and oral, to the Hearing Officer, following which the Hearing Officer will issue a report to the Assistant Administrator containing findings of fact and recommending a disposition of the matter. The report will serve as the sole record of the proceedings." 49 CFR 386.16(b)(4)(i)(A). -For written submissions in lieu of a hearing: See 49 CFR 386.16(a).
Do agency regulations/rules of practice provide for closure of the record at the hearing-level stage (subject to applicable exce: 
Comments/Notes on Hearing-Level Process & Procedures (Optional): 
-The regulations state that these civil penalty proceedings are prosecuted by the Agency Counsel, an attorney who represents the Field Administrator for the area in which the violation occurred. See 49 CFR 386.2 - 386.3. -The regulatory section conferring subpoena power does so only for the Assistant Administrator and for the ALJ if one has been appointed. See 49 CFR 386.53. -The regulations do not expressly prohibit ex parte contact with the decisionmaker, even in those highly formalized cases before ALJs. They do, however, grant ALJs the power to "[r]egulate the course of the administrative adjudication in accordance with the rules of . . . the Administrative Procedure Act." 49 CFR 386.54(a)(6). That Act prohibits ex parte communications with the decisionmakers presiding over formal administrative adjudications. See 5 U.S.C. 554(d), 557(d)(1). Presumably, ex parte contact is forbidden in some cases. -The section allowing for third-party intervention only contemplates such requests being made in 'formal' hearings before ALJs. See 49 CFR 386.17 (referring repeatedly and exclusively to "the administrative law judge"). Third-party participation is allowed only at the ALJ's discretion. See id. -While ALJ decisions in 'formal' hearings must be appealed to the Assistant Administrator before any judicial review, cases proceeding via an 'informal' hearing or submission of written evidence need not take this intermediate step. Such cases conclude at the hearing level with a "Final Agency Order" from the Assistant Administrator, see 49 CFR 386.16(a) and 386.16(b)(4)(i)(A), of which the respondent may seek judicial review under 49 CFR 386.67.
Comments/Notes on Hearing-Level Adjudicators (Optional): 
-The regulations say very little about the "Hearing Officer" and his qualifications, duties or susceptibility to performance evaluation measures. They state only that this official is "a neutral Agency employee designated by the Assistant Administrator to preside over an informal hearing." 49 CFR 386.2. The answers above apply to ALJs and to the Assistant Administrator, not these vaguely-defined "Hearing Officers."
ADR: General Information
Is ADR available at one or more points during the hearing process?: 
If "Yes," when is ADR available?: 
Is ADR a mandatory or voluntary process?: 
What type(s) of ADR are available?: 
Settlement Conference
Who conducts the ADR?: 
Third-Party Neutral
Agency Program Official
Agency Counsel
Non-Presiding Adjudicator
Regulations/rules of practice governing ADR process (please include CFR citations): 
49 CFR 386.14(b)(3) (arbitration); 49 CFR 386.22 (settlement agreements); 49 CFR 386.54(a)(7) and 386.55 (prehearing conferences before an ALJ)
Other published guidance on ADR process (if any):: 
http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/offices/cc/faq/faqs.aspx (includes items describing settlement and arbitration), http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/chiefcounsel/binding_arbitration.fr.pdf (agency's arbitration guidance)
Comments/Notes on ADR Process (Optional): 
-Settlement, the first type of ADR available in these proceedings, is captured in 49 CFR 386.22. This section describes the required contents of settlement agreements and the approval that such agreements may need to receive, depending on the stage of the proceedings. In any case, it does not appear to contemplate settlement before the agency issues its "Notice of Claim" initiating the proceeding. See 49 CFR 386.22(a) (stating that agreements must contain a warning that violations will result in loss of any penalty reductions in the Notice of Claim, and may contain any conditions to redress the violations in the Notice of Claim). --49 CFR 386.54(a)(7) and 386.55 also allow ALJs to hold prehearing conferences to, inter alia, settle or simplify the issues with the parties' consent. -In replying to the Notice of Claim, respondents may request "binding arbitration in accordance with the Agency's program." 49 CFR 386.14(b)(3). Though the regulations provide no further guidance about that program, the agency has published guidance on the issue in the Federal Register. See 69 FR 10288 - 10294.
Verified by Agency: 
Not verified