On August 28th, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced changes to its Safety Measurement System (SMS) used in conjunction with its CSA initiative. All the changes will become operational in December of this year.
After a comment period that opened in March of this year and closed at the end of July, FMCSA wasted little time responding to commenters and publishing improvements to its key measurement system. Comments were received from over 100 industry participants - including the Western Trucking Alliance.
FMCSA has faced much criticism from both industry and federal legislators over the slow pace of agency response to industry perceptions that the SMS does not accurately reflect a motor carrier’s safety profile. On Thursday September 13, 2012 the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held a hearing on CSA titled: “Evaluating the Effectiveness of DOT’s Truck and Bus Safety Program.” Previously, on July 11, 2012 the House Committee on Small Business held a hearing on CSA titled: “Is FMCSA’s CSA Program Driving Small Businesses Off the Road?”
While some of FMCSA’s announced changes are significant other announced changes are only cosmetic. Here is a digest of the changes:
- Strengthening the Vehicle Maintenance Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) by incorporating cargo/load securement violations from today’s Cargo-Related BASIC:
Including the load securement violations into new Vehicle Maintenance BASIC removes the bias in the current Cargo-Related BASIC which has resulted in identifying a disproportionate large number of carriers that haul open equipment (e.g. flatbeds).
- Changing the Cargo-Related BASIC to the HM Compliance BASIC to better identify HM-related safety and compliance problems:
FMCSA is implementing the HM Compliance BASIC to address motor carriers that do not comply with Federal safety regulations related to properly packaging, transporting, accurately identifying, and communicating hazardous cargo in the event of a crash or spill. The general public is subject to a greater safety risk if HM is involved in a motor carrier crash and unmarked or poorly marked HM cargo can result in less effective emergency response, as well as injuries and fatalities for emergency responders and others.
- Better aligning the SMS with Intermodal Equipment Provider (IEP) regulations:
SMS will be updated to include violations that should be found and addressed during drivers’ pre-trip inspection on intermodal equipment, in order to better identify carriers with compliance issues. We’ve asked FMCSA to amend the regulation on pre-trip inspections so drivers and motor carriers know what they’ll be held accountable for.
- Aligning violations that are included in the SMS with Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance inspection levels by eliminating vehicle violations derived from driver-only inspections and driver violations from vehicle-only inspections:
In order to support data uniformity and consistency, motor carriers will not be penalized in the SMS for violations cited outside the scope of an inspection. In other words, if you’ve had a Level III inspection (driver/paperwork only) and the officer notes vehicle violations, they will not be included in factoring CSA scoring.
- More accurately identifying carriers that transport significant quantities of HM:
HM can greatly put the public at risk if the carrier is involved in a crash and unmarked or poorly marked HM cargo can result in less effective emergency response, as well as injuries and fatalities for emergency responders and others. This change will help to better focus FMCSA resources on motor carriers involved with HM transportation. It is important to note that CSA methodology assigns a lower deficiency threshold rate for HM carriers compared to general freight carriers.
- Modifying the SMS display:
Change current terminology, “inconclusive” and “insufficient data,” to fact-based descriptions.
Separate crashes with injuries from crashes with fatalities on motor carriers SMS profile
- Removing 1 to 5 mph speeding violations:
FMCSA has aligned speeding violations to be consistent with current speedometer regulations (49 CFR 393.82) that require speedometers to be accurate within 5 mph. In actuality, this change is related to “probable cause” states that were using minor speeding violations as a pretext for stopping a truck and then noting a speed violation on the inspection report.
- Lowering the severity weight for generic speeding violations:
The severity weight will be lowered to 1 for violations.
- Aligning paper and electronic logbook violations:
FMCSA will equally weight paper and electronic logbook violations in SMS for consistency purposes. Previously, HOS violations where an EOBR was used instead of paper RODS received favorable treatment by the agency.
- Changing the name of the Fatigued Driving (Hours-of-Service (HOS)) BASIC to the HOS Compliance BASIC:
The name change is based on stakeholder feedback and will more accurately reflect violations contained within the BASIC.
Catch Joe Rajkavacz on Sirius/XM, Road Dog Trucking Radio, Channel 106 every other Wednesday. He discusses regulatory issues with Evan Lockridge on the “Lockridge Report” from 11am to 1pm Pacific Standard Time