How to Engage with FMCSA’s Proposed SMS Changes

How to Engage with FMCSA’s Proposed SMS Changes

In February, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced proposed changes to its Safety Measurement System (SMS) to reduce and prevent crashes. The SMS uses data from roadside inspections, crash reports, and investigations to identify and prioritize for intervention the motor carriers that pose the greatest risk to safety.

As part of FMCSA’s commitment to continually improve how it uses data to focus enforcement, these proposed changes aim to better identify the companies needing the most intervention, and will also help companies better understand how to use this data to influence safer behaviors.

The notice came in response to recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences that FMCSA adopt the Item Response Theory (IRT) model to prioritize carriers for safety intervention. Ultimately, FMCSA has concluded that it will not adopt IRT. Instead, it is proposing modifying its CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) Safety Measurement System (SMS) to better calibrate motor carrier scores to more accurately assess carrier’s compliance posture and crash risk.

Some of the proposed changes include reorganizing the SMS’s safety categories (currently known as “BASICs”), organizing roadside violations into violation groups for prioritization purposes, simplifying violation severity weights, adjusting some of the Intervention Thresholds that identify companies for possible intervention, and more changes aimed at comparing similar motor carriers to each other.

In regards to the BASICs changes, while the overall number of safety categories would not change, their composition would. Specifically, FMCSA is proposing eliminating the Controlled Substance and Alcohol BASIC and folding it into the Unsafe Driving safety category. Also included in this category would be all violations for jumping an out-of-service order, regardless of category in which the out-of-service violation occurred.

FMCSA is also proposing to divide the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC into two distinct
safety categories: Vehicle Maintenance and Vehicle Maintenance: Driver Observed. The distinction is that violations discovered during a Level II (walk-around) roadside
inspection will be added to the driver observed category, while those found during a
Level I (full) roadside inspection will be applied to the vehicle maintenance category.

Check Your Scores and Submit Feedback

After more than a decade of experience, analysis, and criticism, FMCSA is demonstrating that it has been listening to its critics and investigating and responding to their concerns. The proposal looks to create a system that is more responsive to the operational diversity of the motor carrier commercial vehicle industry and one that more closely aligns a carrier’s percentile score to their recent performance, rather than the performance of its peers.

A new website, the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) Prioritization Preview, is the first phase of planned updates to the Agency’s SMS. Motor carriers can visit the website to preview how their data would appear under the proposed changes. Companies are highly encouraged to preview these results and submit feedback on the proposed changes.

To that end, FMCSA strongly encourages stakeholders to participate in the preview and submit their comments to the public docket. Feedback on the proposed changes must be submitted to the Federal Docket Management System, Docket ID Number: FMCSA-2022-0066. The comment period ends on May 16, 2023.

Additionally, FMCSA is hosting a series of public online question and answer webinars, during which participants will be able to ask questions about the preview and proposed changes and receive real-time answers, time permitting. Registration is required. Visit the above Preview website for more information.