According to the Safety Measurement System (SMS), a program of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), five million people are employed as commercial truck and bus drivers in the United States. Drivers of these large commercial vehicles share the same roads as more than 250 million Americans using their own personal vehicle. The FMCSA counts on the SMS to intervene with drivers who demonstrate potentially unsafe behavior.
Where does the SMS get its data?
The SMS obtains driver data from crash reports, roadside inspections, and information obtained from investigations to determine which motor carriers pose the greatest risk to the public. All information the SMS receives and uses is two years old or less.
Upon receipt of the data, the SMS organizes it into seven categories known as BASICs. This stands for Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories. Next, the SMS organizes motor carriers according to BASIC categories and places them in a group with others with a similar number of safety events. After creating the groupings, the SMS then ranks each motor carrier and assigns and a percentile to determine how soon to intervene with each one.
What are the seven BASICs?
The SMS selects commercial drivers for intervention based on the following categories:
- Crash Indicator: This data comes from state and local police departments to determine a crash involvement pattern.
- Unsafe Driving: A motor carrier engaging in actions such as speeding, failing to signal lane changes, or tailgating can receive points in this category.
- Compliance with Hazardous Material Requirements: Drivers must follow specific instructions and signage requirements when transporting potentially hazardous materials and can receive SMS intervention if they do not.
- Hours of Service Compliance: This refers to exceeding the maximum allowed consecutive hours or days worked or driving while fatigued or ill.
- Vehicle Maintenance: Motor carriers must keep trucks and buses safe and operational at all times.
- Controlled Substances and Alcohol: It is illegal and will attract SMS attention to operate a commercial vehicle while over the legal limit of intoxication.
- Driver Fitness: A driver must not have a disqualifying medical condition and must also have the proper driver’s license to perform the job.
What should you do if you receive a letter from the SMS?
If you receive a warning letter from the SMS, you are under no obligation to respond to it, but you must read it and understand what it says. The letter will explain why you have been targeted for intervention and what you must do to improve your ranking. It is always a good idea to monitor your own safety performance on the FMCSA website, which it updates monthly. You should also review the Safety Management Cycle of the FMCSA to understand how Safety Investigators complete their work. Lastly, the FMCSA operates a program called Get Road Smart that can provide you with additional resources.
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