What is the Hazardous Materials BASIC?

Hazardous materials is one of seven categories in the Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) program operated by the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The purpose of BASICs is for FMCSA safety evaluators to be able to assess drivers in seven unique categories and then rank them against each other to form a percentile rating. These rankings help the administration uncover and prioritize assistance to drivers who require improvement in practicing safe driving habits, upholding the proper requirements for trucking operation, and properly maintaining commercial vehicles.

Understanding the Hazardous Materials BASIC

Drivers who transport materials deemed hazardous by the Department of Transportation (DOT) must take proper precautions, including appropriate labeling of the hazard to inform others to stay back and/or drive with caution near the commercial vehicle in question. This specific BASIC addresses Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) found in 49 CFR Part 397 and draws inspiration from 39 CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations Parts 171 to 173 and 177 to 180.

Actions that may cause a motor carrier to score poorly on this BASIC include:

  • Not properly securing a load containing any hazardous materials
  • Failing to mark, label, or obtain the appropriate placard warning others of the potential danger
  • Failing cargo tank specifications
  • Transporting hazardous materials that leak due to the driver or motor carrier’s negligent actions
  • Improper loading and/or unloading practices
  • Poor attendance record

Documentation Drivers Must Carry Related to Hazardous Materials

Drivers must produce any documentation requested by a safety inspector, whether it’s a scheduled or random inspection. Inspectors request the following documents the most often:

  • Hazardous materials shipping papers
  • Hazardous materials incident reports
  • Hazardous water materials
  • Evidence of hazardous materials training
  • Certificates from cargo tank manufacturers

Failure to provide these or any other documents could result in a worse score on the inspection and a higher likelihood of FMCSA intervention.

How Drivers Can Improve in the Hazardous Materials BASIC

In order to transport these substances safely and smoothly, drivers must understand the above regulations while transporting hazardous materials. This requires motor carriers to invest time and resources into educating new drivers and providing ongoing education to ensure accurate knowledge and compliance.

If a motor carrier does notice an issue with a driver, it is important to proactively address the problem before it affects the operator’s safety percentile and the motor carrier’s reputation. Drivers who need additional education can find the resources they need on the FMCSA website.

Drivers Who Transport Hazardous Materials Need the Right Insurance

In addition to auto liability insurance, the FMCSA may also require drivers to obtain a special type of insurance policy to transport certain materials. Most commonly, hazmat insurance is required for transporting poisonous, flammable, or explosive materials. This type of trucking insurance can help your business with the costs of cleaning up in-transit accidents, contamination incidents, and more.

To start getting free, customized quotes on hazmat insurance for your commercial trucking business, give our experts a call, fill out our online form, or LiveChat with a trucking insurance specialist today.



How do I separate my MC and DOT Numbers?

DOT Numbers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires drivers to have a number issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and operating authority, also known as an MC number, in certain situations. Drivers must have a DOT number if they operate a vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds, transport nine to 15 passengers for compensation, transport 16 or more passengers with or without compensation, or haul hazardous materials.

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What is included in the Motor Carrier Overview?

Motor Carrier Overview

The Safety Management System (SMS) is a program of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that evaluates and ranks drivers based on several key components. FMCSA states that the purpose of the SMS is to discover and prioritize drivers with unsafe driving habits for agency intervention. This can range from a simple warning letter all the way to an out of service order or revocation of the driver’s Department of Transportation (DOT) number or authority to drive in certain situations (MC number). SMS works in conjunction with another FMCSA program called Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA). The Motor Carrier Overview provides helpful information to give a snapshot of a motor carrier’s situation.

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What is the Summary of Activities?

Summary of Activities

The Safety Measurement System (SMS) is a program of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that helps to ensure drivers practice safe behavior behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle. It affects all motor carriers that transport loads over 10,000 pounds, drive interstate, and/or haul hazardous materials. Administrators of the SMS program review all data from roadside inspections conducted for safety purposes along with crashes reported at the state level for the previous 24 months. You might wonder what exactly is part of the Summary of Activities.

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Why would a motor carrier fail a new entrant safety audit?

New entrant safety audit

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) operates a New Entrant Registration program to ensure that new commercial drivers understand and abide by federal regulations and safety standards. The organization considers all drivers who applied for and received a unique identification number from the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) a new entrant. The program mandates close monitoring of drivers during their first 18 months on the job. This includes a higher number of safety audits than usual.

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What does a new entrant do when their registration has been revoked?

New entrant registration revoked

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) operates a program called New Entrant Safety Assurance Programs to ensure the highest possible level of safety on American roadways. The program serves motor carriers without a domicile in Mexico in the process of applying for an identification number with the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT). This is for the purpose of conducting interstate commerce.

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How does the SMS use segmentation and why?

SMS segmentation

The Safety Measurement System was developed as part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration‘s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program (CSA).  The purpose of this system is to promote safe driving and vehicle operation and ultimately to make the roads safer. The SMS uses segmentation to analyze data and calculate key statistics. Segmentation is designed to make this system more fair and equitable for all carriers. Below is some information to help you understand how this process works and how it will apply to your company.

What is segmentation?

Segmentation is a procedure used to account for differences among carriers within the Unsafe Driving and Crash Indicator BASICs. Segmentation places each carrier in the system into one of two different groups based on the types of vehicles they operate: the straight segment and the combo segment.

The straight segment contains carriers who have more than 30 percent of their total Power Units categorized as straight trucks/other vehicles. The combo segment, on the other hand, contains carriers who have more than 70 percent of their total Power Units made up of combination trucks and motor coach buses.

What is the purpose of segmentation?

The purpose of segmentation is to ensure that companies who operate vehicles with fundamental differences are not compared to each other unfairly. Without the use of segmentation, some carriers may be unreasonably identified as having safety performance problems.

How is segmentation used?

Segmentation is a key component of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s campaign to ensure that all carriers and drivers abide by certain standards. In order to identify carriers that are not abiding by the standards, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration collects data about different carriers, calculates specific statistics, and then divides carriers into percentiles. When carriers exceed a specific percentile threshold within one of the BASIC categories, a safety performance problem is suspected. In such cases, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will send warning letters and/or begin an investigation of the issue in question.

If all carriers were grouped together before percentiles were calculated, some carriers would be at an unfair disadvantage, as they would be compared to carriers that operate much differently. To prevent this problem, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration uses segmentation to group like carriers together.

How does this affect my company?

If you operate a motor carrier that is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, segmentation will affect your company. If you aren’t sure which segment your company falls into, contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to inquire directly. You can also review the different percentile thresholds that apply to each segment within each BASIC category by reviewing the Safety Measurement System (SMS) Methodology available on the Department of Transportation‘s website.

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Why did I get points for a warning ticket?

Warning ticket

When you drive your personal vehicle and get a warning – it’s just that, a true warning. The rules of the road change, though, when commercial trucking is involved. Because safety is such a significant issue for the industry and a warning could reflect problems in the overall way a brand is operating, a warning ticket is a far more severe thing for a commercial driver than it is for someone driving their own personal vehicle.

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What are potential FMCSA follow-on procedures for trucking businesses?

FMCSA follow-on

Follow-on actions are one of three possible responses to violations of FMCSA rules and regulations. Of the three responses, a Follow-On is considered to be the most severe and significant. All interventions by the FMCSA were designed to help educate, inform, and support businesses that have run afoul of regulations, but the Follow-On options are the most severe and most likely to trigger penalties.

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