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Why can a carrier with a satisfactory rating exceed an intervention threshold?

If you’re part of the trucking world, there are a lot of considerations concerning regulations to be aware of. Some of the different rankings and scores can get complicated, especially when you’re trying to figure out how all of these things relate to each other. It can be extremely difficult to make sense of the different terms used to describe your business, especially if they seem to contradict each other. For example – how can a carrier that earned a “satisfactory rating” still exceed an intervention threshold in the BASICs? We’ll explain.

How can a motor carrier with a satisfactory rating exceed an intervention threshold in BASIC?

Okay, let’s start out by talking about the SMS. The purpose of the Safety Measurement System is to find out which carriers are the most in need of intervention. That way the FMCSA can focus its energy and resources on investigating those carriers who have the highest crash risk and rate of non-compliance. The percentile rankings of the SMS show how the carrier’s safety performance relates to that of other carriers. This is not a federal safety fitness rating.

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On the other hand, a safety rating is given at the end of an on-site investigation. It can lead to one of three safety ratings: Satisfactory, Conditional, and Unsatisfactory. The names explain the meaning well enough, but here’s a quick overview.

Satisfactory: This means that the carrier’s management controls are sufficient to adhere to the fitness standard.

Conditional: This shows that the carrier’s safety controls aren’t enough, but haven’t yet led to a violation of the safety fitness standard.

Unsatisfactory: This means that the motor carrier can’t operate CMVs in interstate commerce and that it doesn’t have appropriate safety controls. It has violated the safety fitness standard.

The thing is that Congress has given the FMCSA the authority to figure out the safety fitness of operators of motor vehicles. The FMCSA has laid out federal motor carrier safety standards as well as protocol for on-site investigation (like a compliance review), and the criteria for assigning safety ratings. So that’s where all that comes from. The SMS uses safety and compliance data to evaluate and rank carriers on a monthly basis. This is so they know which carriers to prioritize for intervention. The SMS is meant to locate the particular places in which a carrier has issues on the compliance or safety front. That way they can be prioritized for intervention.

Okay – bottom line is this: the SMS does not affect the carrier’s safety rating. That’s why a carrier can have a satisfactory rating but exceed the intervention threshold in the BASIC.

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