After much debate, a four-month preview period, and comment submission process, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced on its site Friday the changes that will go into effect for the CSA’s Safety Measurement System this December.
Over 14,000 carriers and 1,700 law enforcement officials participated in the SMS preview, which was open to carriers on March 27th. With an approaching deadline to comment on the changes originally scheduled for late June, the FMCSA extended its deadline to July 30th.
The FMCSA has been under pressure by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) to change the way crash accountability is recorded. Last year, carriers complained about high CSA crash scores reflecting accidents in which their trucks were not at fault. In return, the FMCSA developed both a short-term and long-term goal for easing carrier complaints. Under these goals, trucking companies would be able to appeal who’s accountable for an accident, with a long-term plan aiming to determine accountability before the accident is even registered and factored into the scoring process.
In short-term, crashes would continue to be documented into the CSA database, however, carriers would then be given the option of using a system developed by the FMCSA allowing them to challenge the accountability of an accident by submitting a police report through the CSA data correction system. Although all accidents will still be recorded in the CSA system, those carriers at fault will be scored heavier then those held non-accountable for an accident.
But as the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Steve Keppler explains, this method poses problems when the “reviewer makes a determination on accountability that is different than the officer,” who was actually on the scene, or when their determination differs from the insurance company’s investigation.
Last month, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association announced that it had filed a suit against the FMCSA stating that the agency has been releasing inaccurate driver records to employers that ultimately lead to negative consequences for drivers. The group had presented three case examples in which drivers had their violations dismissed in court, however, these violations still remained in the system even after they submitted appeals through the agency’s DataQ, violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act and affecting future business opportunities.
As of December 2012, the following changes will take place:
-“Changing the Cargo-Related BASIC to the HM Compliance BASIC to better identify HM-related safety and compliance problems” 1
In response to concerns over inconsistency in the hazmat category, the FMCSA has decided to make this category private only to carriers and law enforcement until these concerns are addressed. 2
-“Changing the name of the Fatigued Driving (Hours-of-Service (HOS)) BASIC to the HOS Compliance BASIC” 1
In doing so, violations will be reported more accurately.
-Paper and electronic logs used to record a driver’s hours-of-service will be weighed equally. 2
-“Strengthening the Vehicle Maintenance Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) by incorporating cargo/load securement violations from today’s Cargo-Related BASIC” 1
Doing so provides two important benefits: “It identifies motor carriers with a higher future crash risk for FMCSA interventions” and “removes the bias in the current Cargo-Related BASIC which has resulted in identifying a disproportionate large number of carriers that haul open trailers (e.g. flatbeds) for interventions.” 1
-SMS will include pre-trip inspection violations on intermodal equipment. 3
-“Aligning violations that are included in the SMS with Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance inspection levels by eliminating vehicle violations derived from driver-only inspections and driver violations from vehicle-only inspections.” 1
Roadside inspection violations will be reported, however, only specific inspection violations will be included in the SMS. 1
-“Removing 1 to 5 mph speeding violations to ensure citations are consistent with current speedometer regulations.” 2
In addition, “the severity weight for speeding violations that do not designate the mph range above the speed limit” will be lowered. 3
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, who had filed a suit against the FMCSA in July, responded to the changes stating, “We’ve known it’s been a work in progress, and today’s announcement shows that the agency is listening to what truckers have been saying and taking those things into consideration, however, impatience from truckers should not be unexpected when a program has real-life consequences on professionals that know of no other way to do business but safely,” and further emphasized that although it is “a step in the right direction,” it is still not far enough. 4
What do you think of the FMCSA’s changes to the SMS system? Are they sufficient or do you agree with OOIDA that it is “still not far enough?”