The Safety Management System (SMS) is a program of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that ranks motor carriers based on seven specific behaviors. This helps to prioritize them for intervention from the FMCSA. One common question that motor carriers, drivers, and members of the public have is why the FMCSA holds motor carriers responsible for driver errors such as speeding, not meeting medical or experience qualifications, or driving a commercial vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The FMCSA holds motor carriers accountable for driver errors because employers bear responsibility for ensuring the adequate job performance of employees. The agency has long held this position, which means that motor carrier accountability is not unique to the SMS program. Motor carriers understand that performing due diligence when hiring employees, providing ongoing training, and regularly monitoring performance is their responsibility and not the responsibility of commercial drivers.
No intervention thresholds for drivers.
It is not the policy of the FMCSA to address performance issues with drivers in the same way that it does with motor carriers. The system operates much the same way that management structure in the typical office setting does. The highest level of leadership oversees the work of managers who report to them, including problems with the work of employees who report directly to the managers. It is then up to the managers to address and correct issues with their own employees the same way it is for motor carriers. However, drivers must cooperate with an investigation when the FMCSA investigates a motor carrier.
How do motor carriers receive priority for FMCSA intervention?
The FMCSA utilizes data from SMS to uncover and address non-compliance issues by reviewing information from crash reports, inspections, acute violations, and critical violations uncovered during other investigations conducted over the past few years. With this data, SMS evaluates motor carriers in the following seven BASIC categories, which stands for Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories:
- Controlled substances and alcohol
- Crash indicator
- Driver fitness
- Hazardous materials
- Hours of service
- Unsafe driving
- Vehicle maintenance
During the process of evaluating motor carriers, SMS assigns a percentile ranking to each of the seven BASICs. The FMCSA ranks motor carriers against one another based on similar traits such as transporting hazardous materials or the number of violations over the past year. These percentile rankings also help to determine which motor carriers to begin intervention efforts on right away and which violations are not as pressing. Intervention could include anything from a warning letter to a permanent out of service order.
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