Safety is of utmost importance and should always be a top priority, especially on the road. Managing a fleet safely is a huge challenge every fleet manager and business owner faces. But don’t worry. The FMCSA is constantly working to make our roads safer for truck drivers and everyone else in the traffic. They keep bringing in new regulations, like the ELD mandate and HoS rule, to improve road safety.
And now, FMCSA has proposed various significant changes to its safety measurement system. But don’t fret! We’re here to explain FMCSA’s Proposed Safety Measurement System Changes to you in simple words. So make sure you stick with us till the end of this article.
Safety Measurement System- A Brief Overview
The sole purpose of the FMCSA in implementing safety measurement systems is to prevent crashes and promote safer roads. To achieve this objective, it launched a Safety measurement system. It is a tool that identifies carriers with safety problems and helps them to overcome them. It collects data from roadside inspections, reports, and inspections.
FMCSA implemented a safety measurement system back in 2010. The sole purpose behind this program was to ensure better compliance, safety, and accountability among motor carriers. It helps the agency to identify fleets that possess a higher risk to others on the road and take action to resolve it.
In 2017, the US Congress demanded the commission hold an independent study of SMS to sort out the challenges. Soon, the National Academy of Science published a report concluding that SMS is structured reasonably and its methods are reliable. However, it also provides a few recommendations to the FMCSA to improve it. Among them, the most significant was the IRT model.
But the agency declined to adopt the item response theory model as an alternative to the existing SMS methodology owing to various concerns and decided that they will work to improve the SMS system only.
Proposed Revision Of Safety Measurement System- Overview
- Reorganization of the safety categories
- Consolidated violation regulations
- Improved intervention threshold
- Simplified violation severity weights
- More focus on recent violations
- Proportionate percentiles
- Updated utilization factor
Let us discuss them one by one in detail.
The safety measurement system consists of seven BASICs (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories):
- Unsafe Driving
- Crash Indicator
- Hours-of-Service Compliance
- Vehicle Maintenance
- Controlled Substances/Alcohol
- Hazardous Materials Compliance
- Driver Fitness
Carriers receive scores every month according to their compliance with the above categories.
For every category, a carrier gets a percentile ranging from 0-100. The worse you perform, the higher you score. And the more government intervention you will have to bear.
FMCSA has decided to reorganize the seven categories according to the prioritization methodology.
- Unsafe driving
- Crash indicator
- Hours of service compliance
- Vehicle maintenance
- Vehicle maintenance: driver observed
- Hazardous materials
- Driver Fitness
What has changed?
Driving under the influence of controlled substances/alcohol is included in the unsafe driving category.
There is new vehicle maintenance: driver observed. It refers to the maintenance issues drivers identified during the pre-and post-trip inspections.
Reorganized Roadside Violations
Presently, more than 959 violations are prevailing on the roads of the USA. Many carriers find it challenging to comply with them since they are ambiguous.
Now, roadside violations would be made comprehensive. More than 950 violations would be condensed into 116 groups.
It would help ensure that motor carriers are treated equally & there is no inconsistency in the safety category measures when multiple violations are cited for the same issue during one inspection.
Simplified Severity Weights
Currently, FMCSA assigns roadside violations in several safety categories on a scale of 1-10.
|Unsafe Driving Practices||Using phone, reckless driving practices, speeding, or driving under drug influence||10|
|Vehicle Maintenance (Hazardous Materials)||Flat tire, Tire Air Leak, or any other problem on external components||8|
|Hours of Service||Exceeding the working hours’ limits, not using seat belts, and falsifying log books.||7|
|Vehicle Maintenance||Problems in lamps, steering wheel, loading, or smoking while loading or unloading||6|
|Unsafe Driving||Distracted driving||5|
|Vehicle Maintenance and Unsafe Driving Practices||Speeding 6-10 miles per hour, not conducting pre-trip Inspection, or brake issue||4|
|Vehicle Maintenance||Lack of the seatbelt, or emergency equipment||2|
|Vehicle Maintenance||HoS violations, log issues, windshield, and glass scratches||1|
FMCSA has decided to change the violation severity weights to improve compliance. They have noticed that ranking between 1-10 heavily relies on the personal opinion of the officers. It can give rise to corruption. To avoid this in the future, they have simplified it to a 1-2 score.
Now, carriers would be assigned a weight of one or two, according to their violations.
The following violations would receive a severity weight of two:
- OOS violations
- Driver disqualifying violations
Otherwise, they would receive a weight of one.
The new system calculates the benchmark median values of the safety event groups to calculate the weighted average of percentiles. The percentile would be calculated from those benchmarks to draw more focus on the carrier’s performance rather than their peers’ performances.
Changes To Intervention Thresholds
Currently, FMCSA prioritizes carriers for safety interventions with a higher percentile ranking. The threshold of each BASIC differs according to the risk level. The higher risks have lower intervention thresholds with stricter criteria.
The FMCSA has proposed changing these intervention thresholds to focus on carriers with high crash rates.
According to the new threshold, the vehicle maintenance safety categories would have the same threshold as the SMS vehicle maintenance, i.e., 80% for general and 75% for hazmat carriers.
And there will be changes in the driver fitness thresholds.
- 80% to 90% for general carriers
- 65% to 75% for passenger carriers
- 75% to 85% for HM carriers
The hazmat compliance thresholds will also increase from 80% to 90% for all carriers.
More Focus On Recent Violations
The FMCSA will shift its focus to more recent violations and discontinue the 24-month evaluation to calculate the percentile score. Instead, it will assess carrier safety compliance by checking their record for the past twelve months
The new methodology would broaden the carrier’s segmentation to calculate Percentiles for the unsafe driving and crash indicators.
The following safety categories will be introduced, along with the old ones:
- Segment HM compliance by cargo tank and non-cargo tank carriers
- Segment driver fitness by straight and combination carriers
Updated Utilisation Factor
FMCSA would extend the utilization factor to the carrier from 200,000 VMT per average power unit to 250,000 VMT per average power unit. It will allow them to receive a more accurate account of the on-road exposure of motor carriers with the distance traveled by each truck.
Accounting For Non-Preferable Crashes
FMCSA would incorporate the result of the crash preventability determination program to determine whether the accident was preventable.
It will also help the fleet to avoid charges and violations against the crashes where they were not at fault.
On a final note, we can say that this is commendable work by the FMCSA. It would help to reduce complexities in the regulatory environment for motor carriers.
Currently, motor carriers have to go through a lot to protect their organization from violations. It is easy to make silly mistakes even after paying attention due to the various regulations.
FMCSA has provided a four-month period for the public and industry to review and comment on the changes. You can visit the FMSCA’s new website to view the proposed changes. You can also preview the results and submit your feedback.
James Johnson is a former truck driver who now works as a writer, specializing in the trucking industry. With over 15 years of experience on the road, James has a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities faced by truck drivers and the trucking industry as a whole. His writing focuses on issues such as safety, regulation, and the latest industry trends. His work has been featured in several trucking publications and he has received recognition for his contributions to the industry. In his free time, James still enjoys being around trucks and often attends truck shows and other industry events.