FMCSA’s Mission, and the Purposes of SAFER, CSA, and SMS
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) operates with the stated mission of reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial vehicles. In an effort to accomplish it mission, the FMCSA develops and enforces regulations that attempt to balance safety and efficiency. It provides safety information systems that provide data to the public pertaining to motor carriers. And it partners with other agencies to attempt to reduce crashes.
FMCSA’s SAFER System
The FMCSA operates several websites that provide safety-related information pertaining to motor carriers to the public. Primary among these websites are the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (“SAFER”) System; the Safety Measurement System (“SMS”); and the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (“CSA”) program. The SAFER System is designed to provide company snapshots of motor carriers to both the industry and the public, including “a concise electronic record of a company’s identification, size, commodity information, and safety record, including the safety rating (if any), a roadside out-of-service inspection summary, and crash information.” For interstate motor carriers, SAFER contains operational data for inspections and crashes, as well as vehicle registration and insurance data. To the extent any information is available in SAFER for intrastate carriers, it is typically limited.
FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System
The Safety Measurement System (“SMS”) exists to make publicly available more precise information pertaining to motor carriers, specifically pertaining to motor carriers’ compliance records and CSA scores. The SMS website advertises itself as “your one-stop-shop for public motor carrier safety data. SMS uses this information to identify motor carriers that pose the greatest risk to safety for interventions.” SMS provides very specific information regarding motor carrier compliance and crash safety data for a 24-month window.
Using SMS, I collected below data on a medium-size trucking company I represented. In the two-year window that was available, the motor carrier’s drivers and/or vehicles underwent 829 total inspections; 293 inspections resulted in violations. The out-of-service percentage during inspection of the motor carrier’s vehicles was 14.7% (compared to 20.7% nationally) and drivers was 3.3% (compared to 5.5% nationally). The motor carrier’s drivers were involved in twenty reportable crashes, of which four resulted in reported injuries. The motor carrier and its drivers had the following violations:
- Unsafe Driving Violations:
- Failure to obey traffic control devices or lane restriction violations – 11
- Following too close or improper lane change – 4
- Reckless driving – 1
- Speeding 6-10mph over the speed limit – 28
- Speeding greater than 10mph over the speed limit – 6
- Speeding in a work/construction zone – 3
- Hours of Service Compliance:
- Driving beyond 14hr duty period – 11 (7 Out of Service Violations)
- Driving beyond 8hr limit since last off duty or sleeper period of at least 30min – 13
- Driving beyond 11hr driving limit in a 14hr period – 7 (5 Out of Service Violations)
- Driving after 70hrs on-duty in an 8-day period – 2 (2 Out of Service Violations)
- No driver’s record of duty status – 2 (2 Out of Service Violations)
- False report of driver’s duty status – 7 (6 Out of Service Violations)
- Driver Fitness
- Operating without a CDL – 1 (1 Out of Service Violations)
- Driving with CDL suspended for non-safety-related – 2 (2 Out of Service Violations)
- Driving while disqualified – 1 (1 Out of Service Violations)
- Vehicle Maintenance
- Brakes out of adjustment – 35
- Inadequate, inoperative, or defective brakes 12 (3 Out of Service Violations)
- Brakes, generally – 9 (1 Out of Service Violations)
- Tire-related violations – 20 (12 Out of Service Violations)
FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Program
The Compliance, Safety, Accountability (“CSA”) program derives scores and ratings for motor carriers based on their compliance with federal regulations. Compliance is determined by the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) system, which measures a motor carrier’s safety and compliance in the following seven categories: unsafe driving, hours-of-service compliance, driver fitness, controlled substances and alcohol, vehicle maintenance, hazardous materials compliance, and crash indicator.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has recently announced that over the next two years, it will reformulate CSA scores to more appropriately reflect motor carriers’ compliance and safety records. Until then, some of the previously available information will no longer be accessible by the public, such as compliance and safety performance, and Crash Indicator and Hazardous Materials Compliance BASICs. The public will continue to have access inspection and crash data, investigation results, and measures for all public BASICs. Following the reformulation of the scoring system, the CSA scores will be re-released to the public.
Photo by Arkansas Highways.