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Proposed Changes to the FMCSA's Safety Measurement System

Relationship Manager

As you may have heard, on March 27, 2012, the FMCSA made proposed changes to the Safety Measurement System available for viewing by motor carriers before this information is released to the public.  [See our last blog for information on how to access the SMS Preview.] 

A primary goal of the Safety Measurement System and CSA is to allocate enforcement resources appropriately to motor carriers showing safety concerns.  As better technology, new data, and additional analysis become available, the FMCSA intends to update the SMS periodically, and will offer a “preview period” where motor carriers will be allowed to view enhancements in advance.

According to the FMCSA’s SMS Preview Foundational Document, this round of changes includes the following:

1.Cargo/load securement violations are being added to the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC

This change is in response to feedback that carriers that haul mostly open deck (flatbed) trailers have excessively high Cargo-Related BASIC percentiles.  There is an inherent bias against these motor carriers because load securement issues are easier to spot.  By including this type of violation with others in the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, this bias won’t carry as much weight. 

2. A new Hazardous Materials (HM) BASIC will be created to replace the Cargo-Related BASIC

With load securement violations added to the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, the Cargo Related BASIC is going to be re-named the Hazardous Materials BASIC.  The HM BASIC will be based on vehicle inspections and HM violations where the vehicle was transporting placardable quantities of HM. 

The FMCSA is currently planning on making this new BASIC public at the end of the SMS preview period, but they’re holding off on making a final decision until they get feedback on the change.

3. The SMS will be more closely aligned with Intermodal Equipment Provider (IEP) regulations

The SMS currently doesn’t include roadside violations associated with an IEP trailer that is distinct from the motor carrier.  Some of these violations, however, should be attributed to the motor carrier.  Violations that should be found during the driver’s pre-trip inspection are deemed the motor carrier’s responsibility and will be added in the SMS.

The FMCSA retroactively applied this to 24 months of roadside inspections, and as a result, an additional 22,000 violations have been added to the SMS Vehicle Maintenance BASIC.  This additional data has been added in the SMS Preview.

4. Vehicle violations noted on driver-only inspections, and driver violations from vehicle-only inspections are being removed from the SMS. 

The SMS includes driver-only inspections in the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC when vehicle violations are noted.  There were concerns that this practice could bias the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, so the FMCSA has decided to remove these from the SMS.  By taking out these inspections, the SMS will be more in line with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) policies on inspection levels.

5. More accurate identification of carriers involved in transporting HM

HM placardable inspection criteria are being tightened.  [HM review and permit criteria will stay the same, however.]  For a carrier to be subject to the HM threshold due to inspection activity, the carrier must have:

  • At least two HM placardable inspections within the past 24 months, with one inspection occurring within the past 12 months
  • At least 5% of total inspections that are HM placardable inspections.

6. More accurate identification of carriers that transport passengers

The definition of “passenger carrier” will be changed for the purposes of the SMS.  The FMCSA will:

  • Add all for-hire carriers with 9-15 passenger capacity vehicles and private carriers with 16+ passenger capacity vehicles
  • Remove all carriers with only 1-8 capacity vehicles and private carriers with 1-15 passenger capacity vehicles.  This will remove many limousines, vans, taxis, etc.   
  • Remove carriers where less than 2% of their fleets are passenger vehicles.  This excludes those carriers who aren’t focused on transporting passengers as a significant part of their businesses.

7. Modification of the SMS display to  make information easier to use/understand

Feedback indicted that current terminology “inconclusive” and “insufficient data” in the BASIC summary were confusing.  This will be changed.  Also, crashes with injuries and crashes with fatalities will now be separated in the “summary of activities” for each carrier.

What to do during the SMS preview

With the SMS Preview now available, all motor carriers should review the changes and:

  • See if your company meets the intervention thresholds under the new definitions for placardable HM or passenger carrier
  • Check out the new HM Basic and modified Vehicle Maintenance BASIC
  • Verify that if you have vehicle violations found during driver-only inspections (or vice versa) they’ve been removed from the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC.  The FMCSA estimates this affects 2.6% of vehicle violations.
  • Give your feedback!  You can submit comments to the FMCSA by noting the number “FMCSA-2012-0074” and sending via: 
    • Mail: Docket Management Facility, (M-30), U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building, Ground Floor, Room 12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
    • Fax: 1- 202-493-2251
    • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.

Comment below as well with your opinion on the SMS Preview!  We want to hear what you think of the changes.

Topics: Transportation