What is the FMCSA safety measurement system?

By Higginbotham on November 13 , 2019

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According to statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 4,889 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2017, the latest year for which statistics are available. That’s a 9 percent increase from 2016 and a 42 percent increase from 2009.

While overall safety in the motor carrier industry has improved over the last several decades, those statistics are reminders that more work needs to be done.

That’s where the FMCSA comes in. As the main federal agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), the agency’s primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. The agency regulates approximately 521,000 active interstate freight motor carriers, 13,000 passenger carriers, 17,000 hazardous materials carriers and about 4 million active CDL holders.

That takes data, and lots of it. And in fact, the FMCSA manages a virtual warehouse of data on commercial vehicles and drivers operating in the U.S.

What does the FMCSA do with all that data?

In its role of improving motor carrier safety, the FMCSA uses this data to:

  • Develop and enforce regulations that balance safety with efficiency
  • Focus on high-risk carriers
  • Promote educational messages to carriers, commercial drivers and the public
  • Coordinate with stakeholders including federal, state and local enforcement agencies, the motor carrier industry, safety groups and organized labor to reduce accidents

What is the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System?

As part of the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program, its Safety Measurement System (SMS) is where all that data plays one of its most crucial roles. The SMS serves to quantify the on-road safety performance of individual companies and drivers (entities) for the purpose of:

  • Identifying entities with significant safety problems for interventions
  • Identifying the specific safety problems an entity exhibits
  • Monitoring safety problems throughout the Intervention Process
  • Supporting FMCSA’s proposed Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) process
  • Identifying entities that should be deemed “unfit” for operation

Obviously, SMS results can be a huge factor in determining whether a motor carrier stays in business.

But regulatory ratings aren’t the only purpose of the SMS. The system also provides education that can drive better decisions.

SMS results also provide stakeholders with valuable safety information. Carriers can view the findings from the SMS to assess their weaknesses in various safety areas, which can help them make better safety-based business decisions.

How are carriers and drivers ranked under the SMS?

Carriers and drivers are ranked in six Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs), as well as for crash involvement (Crash Indicator). The six BASICs are:

  1. Unsafe Driving. Operation of a vehicle in a dangerous or careless manner, such as speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change and inattention.

  2. Hours-of-Service Compliance. Operation of CMVs by drivers who are ill, fatigued or in noncompliance with the Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations.

  3. Driver Fitness. Operation of vehicles by drivers who are unfit to operate a CMV due to lack of training, experience or medical qualifications.

  4. Controlled Substances/Alcohol. Operation of CMVs by drivers who are impaired due to alcohol, illegal drugs and misuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications.

  5. Vehicle Maintenance. Failure to properly maintain a CMV and prevent shifting loads.

  6. Hazardous Materials Compliance. Unsafe handling of Hazardous Materials (HM). The SMS also evaluates a company’s crash history, including patterns, frequency and severity.

Do your safety stats measure up?

The road can be a dangerous place. To keep your operation running safely and profitably, you need robust risk management strategies. Smart financial protection needs to be part of that strategy. At Higginbotham, we know the motor carrier industry, and we have the insurance solutions to manage your unique risks and keep your operation safe and profitable. Contact us to learn more.

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