In an effort to improve highway safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration launched its Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program in December 2010. Regulators plan to identify unsafe trucking companies and commercial bus companies so that corrective actions can be taken sooner. The goal is to reduce dangers to the public.
The crucial element in the plan is the Safety Measurement System (SMS), which will analyze data derived from safety violations and truck accidents to determine whether corrective actions are necessary and how they will applied. Carriers will also be evaluated under Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs), which include driver fitness, unsafe driving, fatigued driving, vehicle maintenance, alcohol or controlled substance use, crash history and cargo loading indicators. The data obtained from these factors will help the FMCSA find patterns of safety violations that serve as predictors for future conduct.
This is an improvement on the prior system, SafeSat, which only reviewed four categories to determine carrier risk. Regulators can evaluate many more carriers with the new program, and it also allows state law enforcement agencies to work with FMCSA to identify problematic carriers and implement safety interventions. Interventions include three phases:
- Early contact, including warning letters, roadside inspections and carrier access to their safety data. Additionally, the public may view SMS data online by entering a specific carrier’s MC or DOT number.
- Investigation, including onsite and focused investigations to evaluate the root causes of SMS issues.
- Follow up, including voluntary safety improvement plans and punitive actions for carriers who do not follow FMCSA recommendations.
According to recent reports, more than half of all carriers ranked have at least one alert under the various BASICs; meaning that they have exceeded the minimum threshold for that category. The most common alert was for driver fatigue. While these alerts raise awareness of potential violations, FMCSA acknowledges that they are not Safety Fitness Determinations (SFD) that are punishable by statute. Nevertheless, commercial carriers must now adhere to new safety fitness determinations, adapt internal processes, and update technologies to meet the new safety guidelines.