The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Monday unveiled proposed changes to its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, including changing some intervention thresholds to better reflect crash risk.

The agency says its proposed enhancements to the Safety Measurement System (SMS) will improve its ability to prioritize and intervene with motor carriers that pose the greatest safety risk.

Changing Intervention Thresholds

The proposal would change some of the SMS Intervention Thresholds to better reflect the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories’ (BASICs) correlation to crash risk.

As part of its SMS Effectiveness Test analysis, FMCSA analyzed the correlation of each BASIC with crash risk and introduced three levels of crash risk correlation:

  • High: Unsafe Driving, Crash Indicator, Hours-of-Service (HOS) Compliance
  • Medium: Vehicle Maintenance
  • Low: Controlled Substances/Alcohol, HM Compliance, and Driver Fitness

The proposal would maintain the current intervention thresholds of 65% for the BASICs with the strongest relationship to crash risk -- Unsafe Driving, Crash Indicator, and HOS Compliance.

However, the Vehicle Maintenance Basic would drop from the current 80% threshhold to 75%, which the agency notes will identify a new set of motor carriers to receive warning letters so the agency can address non-compliance issues before crashes occur.

The Controlled Substances/Alcohol BASIC, the Hazmat Compliance BASIC and the Driver Fitness BASIC would rise from the current 80% to 90%, reflecting their lower correlation to crash risk.

Segmenting Hazmat Compliance

The proposal would segment the HM Compliance BASIC by cargo tank (CT) and non-CT carriers.

Industry and enforcement stakeholders raised concerns that large non-cargo-tank hazmat carriers have difficulty improving in the HM Compliance BASIC because they are being unfairly compared to cargo tank HM carriers.

FMCSA studied the feasibility of segmenting the HM Compliance BASIC by business type and found that for most motor carriers that operate cargo tanks, the cargo tanks make up a majority of the carrier's inspections. A carrier was categorized as a CT carrier if more than 50% of its inspections indicated the vehicles were CTs, and for most that percentage was actually much higher.

Non-CT HM and CT HM carriers have different operations and as a result they often receive different violations. After analyzing the issue carefully, FMCSA determined that segmenting the HM Compliance BASIC by CT and non-CT carriers will address this bias and improve the SMS's ability to identify HM carriers with serious safety problems.

Other changes

Other proposed changes to the SMS would:

  • Reclassify violations for operating while out-of-service (OOS) as under the Unsafe Driving BASIC, rather than the BASIC of the underlying OOS violation.
  • Increase the maximum Vehicle Miles Travelled used in the Utilization Factor to more accurately reflect operations of high-utilization carriers.

"These enhancements to SMS allow us to sharpen our focus on carriers with high crash rates, more effectively identify driver safety problems and hazardous materials carriers with serious safety problems, and more accurately account for carriers that are driving on our roads the most," said the agency on its website.

FMCSA encourages everyone to review and comment on the proposed SMS enhancements in the Federal Register Notice. The 30-day comment period will end on July 29, 2015. You can submit written comments on the proposed changes to the Federal Docket Management System, Docket ID Number FMCSA-2015-0149-0001.

After reviewing comments received, FMCSA will announce the preview of the proposed enhancements to SMS in a second Federal Register Notice. Submit your comments on the Federal Register Notice here.