Every year, large trucks are involved in more than 350,000 crashes on America's roads. In 2008, large trucks were involved in 3,733 fatal crashes that killed 4,229 people and 64,000 crashes that injured 90,000 people. Another 297,000 crashes caused only property damage. That's a lot of big, heavy vehicles hitting other vehicles, people, and objects, sometimes at high speeds and with disastrous results.
To reduce the number of crashes and their severity, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates commercial vehicles, is in the final stages of implementing its Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 (CSA 2010). The effort focuses on identifying unsafe drivers and conditions and notifying employers when they need to take action with respect to driver and vehicle safety.
Carriers are evaluated on inspections and crashes associated with their own U.S. Department of Transportation number, so only the violations that a driver receives while working for a carrier apply to that carrier's SMS evaluation. The driver's pre-hire and post-termination violation history will not affect a carrier's SMS results.
Safety Indicators: The BASICs
Current commercial truck and bus operators are familiar with FMCSA's SafeStat system for identifying safety performance problems; under CSA 2010, SafeStat will be replaced with the Safety Measurement System (SMS). Unlike SafeStat, which considered only out-of-service data from roadside inspections (specifically, the percentage of inspections that resulted in a driver or truck being taken out of service) and some moving violations, the SMS considers all safety-based inspection violations and emphasizes on-road safety performance. In addition, the SMS weights violations based on their relationship to crash risk, and unlike SafeStat, it can affect a carrier's overall safety rating.
The SMS provides scores across seven categories of factors that can contribute to crashes, called Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). The BASICs are:
- Unsafe driving: Operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in a dangerous or careless manner; examples include speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, and inattention.
- Fatigued driving (hours-of-service): Operating a CMV while ill, fatigued, or in noncompliance with the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, including violations of regulations pertaining to logbooks as they relate to HOS requirements and the management of CMV driver fatigue.
- Driver fitness: Operating a CMV when unfit to do so because of lack of training, experience, or medical qualifications; examples include not having a valid and appropriate commercial driver's license and being medically unqualified to operate a CMV.
- Controlled substances/alcohol: Operating a CMV while impaired due to alcohol, illegal drugs, and misuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications.
- Vehicle maintenance: Failing to properly maintain a CMV, including not making required repairs or keeping brakes, lights, and other mechanical devices in safe working order.
- Cargo-related: Failing to properly prevent shifting loads, spilled or dropped cargo, overloading, and unsafe handling of hazardous materials on a CMV; examples include improper load securement, cargo retention, and hazardous material handling.
- Crash indicator: Histories or patterns of high crash involvement, including frequency and severity (based on information from state-reported crashes).
A carrier's measurement for each BASIC depends on:
- the number of adverse safety events (violations related to that BASIC or crashes)
- the severity of violations or crashes
- when the adverse safety events occurred (more recent events are weighted more heavily)
Safety Ratings and Interventions
A carrier's overall safety rating will be determined monthly. Carriers will be compared to other carriers with similar numbers of inspections and given a percentile rating within the group, with a 100th percentile rating indicating the worst performance.
Carriers with poor safety performance ratings will hear about it from the FMCSA. Several possible levels of intervention are available to the FMCSA, but the most common will probably be a warning letter informing the carrier that a case file has been opened on its company. Carriers that receive a warning letter will:
- Have the opportunity to review the data that was used to determine their rating and request correction of any data that is in error.
- Be subject to follow-up evaluation of their regulatory compliance, through roadside inspections focusing on areas identified as deficient.
Carriers that don't correct problems identified by the SMS may be subject to higher-intensity interventions, including off-site inspections (conducted by mail or phone), focused on-site inspections (addressing only specific concerns), or comprehensive inspections.