A basic review of safety measurements

By Joseph Evangelist

Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange

Fleets are well aware that they are being monitored to ensure they operate in the safest possible manner. But when it comes to safety, it doesn’t hurt to review some of the basics surrounding fleet safety ratings.

As part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Compliance, Safety Accountability (CSA) initiative, the Safety Measurement System (SMS) quantifies the on-road safety performance of carriers and drivers. It identifies candidates for interventions, determines the specific safety problems exhibited by a carrier or driver, and monitors whether safety problems are improving or getting worse.

The SMS is determined by using a carrier’s data from roadside inspections, including all safety-based violations, state-reported crashes and the federal motor carrier census. Fleets are evaluated in seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories, more commonly known as BASICs.

Here’s a quick review of some of the things included in the BASICs.

  1. Unsafe driving: Speeding, cell phone use, reckless driving, improper lane change, not wearing a seat belt, and following too close
  2. Hours of Service (HOS) Compliance: Not keeping HOS logs up-to-date, failure to show last seven days hours worked, no 30-minute rest break, driving while ill or fatigued
  3. Driver fitness: Failure to carry a valid and appropriate Commercial Drivers License, driver not certifying DOT physical with state Department of Motor Vehicles, current DOT physical card, or being medically unqualified
  4. Controlled Substance/Alcohol: Use or possession of illegal drugs or alcohol, misuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs
  5. Vehicle Maintenance: Failure to maintain a vehicle properly including issues with brakes, lights, tires and other defects and improper load securement
  6. Hazardous Materials Compliance: Release of a hazardous material, no shipping papers or shipping papers that are not immediately accessible and no placards/markers when required
  7. Crash Indicator: History or pattern of high crash involvement, including frequency and severity

The carrier’s score for each BASIC depends on:

  • The number of adverse safety events (violations related to that BASIC or crashes)
  • The severity of violations and crashes
  • When the adverse safety event occurred (more recent events are weighed more heavily)

Once the score is calculated, the carrier is placed in what’s called an “event group,” which includes carriers with a similar number of inspections. The BASIC scores of a carrier are compared to other carriers in the group and assigned a percentile ranking from 0 to 100, with 100 being the worst.  With these scores, lower is better. For example, if in the vehicle maintenance BASIC you have a score of 45.0, this means 45% of your group has a better score (i.e. fewer violations) than your company.

If one of more BASIC percentile exceeds the pre-established threshold for that BASIC, the carrier becomes a candidate for an intervention. Thresholds vary depending on the type of carrier and the BASIC. For example, the Hazardous Materials BASIC has lower intervention thresholds.

The intervention process typically starts with a warning letter. This provides the carrier with the opportunity to review its performance and make improvements without further FMCSA involvement.

One last point: CSA scores remain on a carrier’s record for a rolling 24-months and on a driver’s record for a rolling 36-months. DOT reportable crashes remain on the driver’s record for 60-months.

Safety is more than a poster or a bumper sticker. It’s a serious part of our business and we simply have to give it much more than lip service.

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