Compliance, Safety, Accountability – The SMS takes the amount, severity, and date of any violations, inspections or crashes a carrier has been involved in and gives a weight to it. More weight is given to violations that are more recent. After two years, however, violations are removed from the record.
If you’re curious about how clean a trucking company’s driving record is, you’re in luck. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducts Compliance, Safety, Accountability audits as a way to improve the overall safety of commercial motor vehicles. The program allows the FMCSA to put an intense focus on companies that pose the highest safety risks on the roads.
Audits are based on carrier performance and driven by the data collected on them. Safety data for each company is collected from registration details, roadside inspections, crash reports, and investigation results. This data is published to the FMCSA’s Safety Management System (SMS) website and updated on a monthly basis. SMS is a program designed to keep tabs on how reliable a trucking company is by collecting safety records and giving carriers a grade based on how safely their drivers are performing.
The data is broken down into seven different classifications, called Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). These categories cover:
Using each BASIC category, the SMS groups carriers with the same range of safety events together. It ranks all carriers and assigns them a percentile from 0-100. Like most agencies, the FMCSA has limited resources, however, the CSA score system allows them to prioritize visits to carriers starting with the lowest CSA scores. To improve their CSA score, a carrier must undergo violation-free inspections in the future.
The percentage you see reflects the percentage of truck driving companies who are doing better than the carrier you are looking at. A safety rating of 80 means that 80 percent of other monitored companies have better ratings than that company. While this may be confusing at first, just remember a higher percentage means a lower CSA score.
DOT inspections can cost businesses a lot of money in lost time and fines. It is important to check scores as they are an indicator of the companies that the FMCSA will target. They serve as a guide to where a carrier needs to make improvements in their safety and compliance.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) inspects every carrier to determine if any safety changes or improvements need to be made. Law enforcement officers spend time researching these reports to pinpoint which companies are having the most problems.
Law enforcement officers aren’t the only ones who look at these scores, however. Shippers often choose carriers based on safety ratings; a more reliable fleet of drivers means a safer delivery. Poor scores also increase a carrier’s cost of insurance.
The ultimate goal of the CSA program is to make the roads a safer place for both carriers and drivers. The program holds both accountable for their role in safety. Through compliance with safety rules, carriers and drivers should be able to identify and rectify potential safety concerns before they cause harm.
This program can be extremely useful for new truck drivers trying to narrow down the search of truck driving companies they want to work for. Comparing company ratings gives you a better idea of how well the company is doing. It’s not necessary to make a decision based only on a slightly better score, but it should help you cut out companies that are struggling with below average scores.