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What is a power unit and how does it work in the SMS?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) uses the MSC-150 to help them identify motor carriers in their system. The registration for each motor carrier includes a snapshot of information, such as the type of cargo transported, operation classification, and contact information. Motor carriers must update this information and keep it current. The FMCSA requires carriers to update their MSC-150 immediately if they do have changes. If they fail to do so, the FMCSA will deactivate the carrier’s Department of Transportation (DOT) number. One of the things that the FMCSA considers is the number of power units. We’ll explain what “power unit” means and why it’s important.

The MSC-150 and power units.

As part of each motor carrier’s registration data, the FMCSA may include something known as power units. A power unit can include hazardous material tank trucks, motor coaches, school buses, tractors, and trucks.

Safety inspectors in the Safety Management System (SMS) program use the number of power units a motor carrier has to determine the amount of on-road exposure it has. This is an important metric to help determine a driver’s percentile ranking for the Unsafe Driving and Crash Indicator portion of the Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC) program.

How the SMS determines an average number of power units per carrier

The SMS uses a specific methodology when calculating carrier power units. These include:

  • The current number of power units credited to the carrier.
  • How many power units the carrier had six months ago.
  • How many power units the carrier had 18 months ago divided by three.
  • The average number of power units compared to the average number of miles traveled per vehicle.
  • Miles traveled per vehicle as a factor related to exposure when estimating the number of power units used by drivers over a period of 24 months in which a reportable crash or enforcement violation could have occurred.

There is a good reason why the SMS works this way when it comes to power units. The SMS uses this methodology to promote fairness. Over the course of 24 months, individual carriers often experience events, for example, mergers or downsizing, that impact power units. This is the reason that the SMS uses an average number of power units over a period of two years. The SMS recognizes that the type of vehicle driven has a major impact on safety events.

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Your job is to drive safely and deliver goods to the customers of your motor carrier, whether that’s yourself or an employer. Ours is to help commercial drivers find great and affordable insurance to help them meet FMCSA requirements and protect their financial interests. Our team of truck insurance experts can help you evaluate which coverages you need to protect your business, and we can help you get multiple truck insurance quotes so you can have options. You can complete a quote request form and compare offers from several insurers at once. Or, if you prefer, you can give us a call or send us a message on LiveChat.