Federal agencies Safety measurement systems Trucking Transportation

FMCSA proposing changes to Safety Measurement System

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Photo: KingWu/iStockphoto

Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration wants to make changes to the tool it uses to identify high-risk motor carriers.

In a Federal Register notice published Feb. 15, FMCSA says changes to its Safety Measurement System “could make it easier for FMCSA and motor carriers to pinpoint and address safety issues.”

The agency is accepting comment until May 16 on the following proposed revisions:

  • Reorganized and updated SMS safety categories, currently known as Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories, or BASICs
  • Consolidated violations
  • Simplified violation severity weights
  • Proportionate percentiles instead of safety event groups
  • Improved intervention thresholds that identify carriers for possible intervention
  • Greater focus on recent violations
  • An updated utilization factor

FMCSA uses the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program to rank commercial motor vehicle carriers on safe operation, largely using as criteria the amount of violations found during roadside inspections and the number of crashes a carrier experiences. Based on that, FMCSA then consults its SMS to identify carriers that may be at risk for future violations or crashes.

A National Academies of Sciences review of the CSA program, published in June 2017 and mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015, found SMS to be “sound” but still recommended the agency consider “a more statistically principled approach” for evaluating motor carrier safety.

“Some features of SMS implementation can be improved upon, and some of the details of the implementation are ad hoc and not fully supported by empirical studies,” the review stated. “Many of these details of implementation would be easily addressed if the algorithm currently used were replaced by a statistical model that is natural to this sort of discrimination problem.”

The review panel recommended FMCSA develop an item response theory model and replace its current program with the IRT model if it worked well.

In the notice, FMCSA says that although it won’t adopt an IRT model in full, certain aspects will be implemented.

“The agency’s IRT modeling work revealed many limitations and practical challenges with using an IRT model,” FMCSA writes. “As a result, FMCSA has concluded that IRT modeling does not perform well for the agency’s use in identifying motor carriers for safety interventions, and therefore, does not improve overall safety.”

FMCSA recently launched a CSA Prioritization Preview website as an initial phase of planned SMS updates, an agency press release states. The website allows motor carriers to view how data would appear under the proposed changes.

Further, the agency has scheduled three public webinars to allow participants to ask questions about the preview and proposed changes. The webinars are set for 3 p.m. Eastern on March 7 and 14, and 11 a.m. Eastern on March 15.

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