The Safety Measurement System (SMS) is a program operated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to help identify unsafe drivers and prioritize them for intervention. Drivers receive a percentile rank based on how well they perform against other drivers with a similar number of violations as well as the severity of the violations. It uses several factors when determining this percentage, including out of service orders, the results of roadside inspections, crashes reported at the state level, and the past 24 months of data for every driver. We’ll focus on how time-weighting works within the SMS.
The SMS program.
One of the most important ways that inspectors working under the SMS program evaluate drivers is by how they perform in each of the seven BASICs, which stands for Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories. (These are really important for truckers to understand.) Currently, the seven BASICs include:
- Controlled Substances and Alcohol
- Crash Indicator
- Driver Fitness
- Hazardous Materials Compliance
- Hours of Service Compliance
- Unsafe Driving
- Vehicle Maintenance
When evaluating each of the BASICs, the inspector assigns a weight to violations that factor in how recently it occurred and its severity. This allows inspectors to fairly assign percentiles with drivers who have different activity levels. The methodology allows inspectors under the SMS program to evaluate each fairly in comparison with each other.
Understanding how the system of time-weighting works.
So, what’s the deal with time-weighting for violations? This plays a part in how the whole SMS system works.
A violation in any of the BASIC categories has the biggest impact from the date of the occurrence until six months have passed. That is because the newest violations receive three times the weight as older violations and have a bigger impact on a driver’s percentile ranking. Under the SMS system, violations that occurred between six and 12 months ago receive double the weight while those that happened between 12 and 24 months ago count at face value. So pretty much as time goes by, the time weight of the violation drops.
Driver violations, regardless of severity, drop off the SMS program after 24 months. If you have received a new violation, the best thing you can do is commit to studying FMCSA materials and not receive a new violation over the next 24 months. That means only the single violation will show up on your driving record and will continue to decrease in severity until it falls off your record entirely.
And that’s how time-weighting for trucking violations works!
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