Safety Measure System Shows Promise for Driver Accountability, by Sonia Nanda

After an independent evaluation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that the agency’s programs operational model test has confirmed that there has been a substantial improvement in the agency’s compliance model.

Results showed that the Safety Measure System (SMS) is an improvement, and shows more benefits, over the previously used SafeStat system to identify unsafe carriers. The most common violations today include speeding and following too closely, which are more likely to trigger traffic stops and inspections.

Motor carriers should look at this as a new opportunity to reduce violations and accidents by developing a system in which their safe drivers are rewarded with incentives, based on their CSA performance. Thus, such rewards should discourage company drivers from engaging in unsafe driving practices and incentivize them to adhere to your system.

As a US/Canadian driver, you should keep in mind that the CSA applies to you even if you are operating in the US. How it applies it to you while you are driving in the US may not be detrimental at the point of inspection; however, once you are in the system, you will be closely monitored. Your scores may not remove you from service, but you could receive monetary fines because of them. If the US DOT audits your company, it will have to answer for your negative scores and be made to exercise correctional actions against you; such actions could range from additional training to termination.

How the CSA works: It collects and reports safety data related to commercial motor vehicles on a monthly basis. The data includes safety violations and crash statistics. Based on the collected data and figures, the CSA calculates the statistical likelihood of a potential accident. Using the on-road safety performance data, the CSA classifies it into seven categories, called Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC’s). These categories include unsafe driving, vehicle maintenance, cargo related, crash indicator, fatigued driving, driver fitness, and controlled substances. Each carrier has a BASIC rating, ranging from 1 to 10; the most severe violations are when a rating is closer to 10. The figure assigned to a carrier depends on the number, severity, and time and day of the violations.

The CSA uses the SMS to not only measure the safety performance of a carrier, but also to monitor the compliance of the carrier. The SMS looks at the historical data of a carrier’s inspections, violations, and interventions. It identifies which carriers need interventions, based on the collected historical data.

Based on the evaluation of the SMS, individual states or the FMCSA can identify which carriers require intervention. The FMCSA uses the intervention to educate carriers about safety issues so that they can take action before penalties are imposed.