FMCSA's Safety Measurement System is Sound, Report Suggests
FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System is Sound, Report Suggests

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) evaluated the FMCSA’s Safety Management System (SMS) and released its review report last month.

The report named “Improving Motor Carrier Safety Management” remarked: “Safety Management System used to identify commercial motor vehicle carriers at high risk for future crash risk is conceptually sound.”

However, the remarks — which neither questioned nor doubted the credibility of FMCSA’s safety measurement system — also noted some deficiencies and limitations. The report then made certain suggestions for improvement.

Here are all the details, positives, and negatives of NASEM’s report. Let’s start with the beginning.

Safety Measurement System (SMS)

Safety Measurement System, or SMS, is a methodology and a process under the CSA scoring system employed by the FMCSA to measure the safety of motor carriers. The system is designed to ensure road safety by collecting a carrier’s performance data and implementing actions based on the quality of that data.

Based on some findings, observations, and predictions, SMS generates scores for carriers. If a carrier falls below a certain figure (the threshold set by the FMCSA), the agency intervenes in former’s operations. The intervention includes issuance of warning letters, investigations, fines, and suspension of operations.

Motor carriers are assessed mainly on violations, roadside inspections, and the frequency of accidents or crashes.

After reviewing the working and efficiency of SMS, here are the shortcomings that NASEM’s report highlighted:

Shortcomings of the Safety Measurement System

  • Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) does not include many important factors that contribute to crashes and accidents.
  • The system assesses only carrier-level behavior and does not consider driver behavior and the corresponding environment.
  • It focuses more on crash prevention than predictions.
  • Some implementation details lack support by empirical studies.
  • There are no standardized procedures for data collection.
  • The system lines up carriers in groups with little or no consideration given to the type of operation they carry out.

Apart from finding some shortcomings in the system, the research team also suggested certain improvements, which are written below:

Suggestions for the Safety Measurement System

  • The FMCSA should collaborate with the state and other agencies for the collection of data.
  • The FMCSA should adopt a more “statistical” approach for SMS. The report proposed the IRT model.
  • The Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria (MMUCC) should be adopted for data standardization.
  • The turnover rate of company employees, type of cargo being handled, level and method of compensation, and the quality of miles traveled should be included in the list of factors used for the determination of carriers’ scores.

Conclusion

The report cleared the air for speculations that were surrounding regarding the validity of SMS — especially after opposition from ASECTT and other independent industry professionals. Now, let’s wait and see when the FMCSA adopts the proposed suggestions and improve their system.

In the end, however, we can rest assured that every department is working hard to improve road safety and optimize the way data is collected and used in the trucking industry.

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