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What is a BASIC in trucking and why do the BASICs matter?

There are a lot of regulations that trucking businesses need to be aware of and follow. The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) is the agency charged with overseeing CMVs and regulating trucks. The FMCSA has the power to intervene with truck businesses in the form of written letters of warning or investigations. But how does the FMCSA decide who to investigate? There are a lot of businesses out there – why would they single out your business?

The FMCSA uses BASIC (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category) percentiles to prioritize which truck businesses to investigate. What’s a BASIC percentile? Great question. We’ll explain what BASICs are, where they come from, and what could cause your business to get poor percentile scores on your BASICs.

What are the seven BASICs?

There are seven different BASIC categories in which you’re given a percentile. The seven categories are…

Unsafe Driving:

This category has to do with operating a CMV in a way that is reckless or dangerous. Behaviors that could cause you to get a poor Unsafe Driving BASIC score are speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, not paying due attention, and not changing lanes properly.

Crash Indicator:

This category uses a business’s pattern of crashes, including the frequency and severity of the collisions. This is based on State-reported crash information and examining the behaviors that resulted in the crashes.

Hours of Service (HOS) Compliance:

This BASIC has to do with operating a CMV when ill or experiencing driver fatigue. Not complying with HOS regulations can cause you to get a poor HOS BASIC score, as can committing a Record of Duty Status (RODS) violation.

Vehicle Maintenance:

This category relates to properly maintaining your truck, preventing shifting loads or dropped cargo, and preventing the overloading of your CMV. Some behaviors that fall under this category are broken brakes or lights, driving a CMV that has mechanical problems, failing to make needed repairs, and not securing a load properly.

Controlled Substances/Alcohol:

The Controlled Substances BASIC concerns driving a CMV when impaired by alcohol, illegal drugs, or the misuse of prescription or OTC medication. Failing to have a drug or alcohol testing program and the use or possession of drugs or alcohol can hurt your Controlled Substances BASIC.

Hazardous Materials Compliance:

This category relates to the unsafe handling of hazardous materials or not meeting regulations for hazmat transport. Leaking containers, improperly secured containers, and failing to properly mark or placard your truck are all behaviors that could hurt your score in this category.

Driver Fitness:

This BASIC has to do with driving a CMV when unfit to do so as a result of a lack of training and experience or not meeting medical requirements. Not having a valid CDL, being medically unqualified, or not keeping driver qualification files can count against you in this category.

Where do the BASIC percentile scores come from?

Here’s the deal:

The FMCSA uses a database of sorts called the Safety Measurement System (SMS) to figure out which businesses are a high priority for some form of intervention. The SMS analyzes performance data from inspections, crash reports, and violations (either from roadside inspections or investigations) and examines truck carriers in the seven BASIC categories. The SMS data is updated once a month.

From there, the system gives the carrier a percentile score from 0-100 (with 100 being the worst) in comparison to other carriers with similar safety histories (carriers are divided into groups based on their safety histories – the number of crashes, inspections, violations, etc.) If you have a certain number of BASIC percentages at or above the intervention mark or if you’ve had an Acute or Critical violation during the past year, you could be subject to FMCSA intervention or monitoring. Basically, those things make you a higher priority for the FMCSA to investigate.

This is all a little confusing, right? We think so, too, so let’s break it down.

Your BASIC scores are calculated using safety data. You’re given a percentile based on carriers with similar safety records. The percentiles of the seven BASICs determine if the FMCSA can or will intervene with your business.

Make more sense?

Do my BASIC percentages affect my safety ratings?

Safety ratings may be issued after an Onsite Investigation. Your safety rating reflects the date of the investigation while the BASIC percentiles are updated each month. You can get one of three ratings from an Onsite Investigation:

Satisfactory: Safety compliance is good and the carrier has adequate safety controls.

Conditional: Safety controls are not sufficient, but they have not caused a safety fitness standard violation yet.

Unsatisfactory: Safety controls are not adequate and have caused a violation of safety fitness standards.

So, that’s the scoop with the BASICs. Your percentiles do make a difference. Remember, 100 is the worst score, and if you have high enough percentiles in enough categories, you could be subject to FMCSA intervention, whether it’s a warning letter or an investigation. Be aware of the regulations CMV operators are required to uphold and follow them. Let’s keep those BASICs low!

Along with all of those regulations, you also have to think about your truck insurance. We can help you shop for the best coverage at the best rate so you can save money on your truck insurance. All you have to do to get started with your truck insurance quotes is fill out our online form or give us a call today.