U.S. Trucking Regulators Defend Controversial Safety System

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Federal trucking regulators in the U.S. are defending a key safety system used to identify trucking companies that have a high risk of being in crashes.

A new report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has to do with the agency’s Safety Measurement System (SMS), rolled out four years ago as part of the Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) program, designed to improve trucking industry safety.

According to the agency, the report found that SMS effectively identifies trucking companies involved in 90 percent of the more than 100,000 crashes that occur each year in the U.S., and those that are identified as high-risk carriers continue to have crash rates that are twice the national average.

SMS, as well as, CSA, have come under fire by some groups in trucking as well as by certain U.S. lawmakers, claiming the measures often make safe trucking operaitons look bad.

In examining commercial motor vehicle crash rates, FMCSA said it looked at carriers of various sizes, in accordance with the directive by U.S. lawmakers that it conduct the study. The analysis also revealed no significant difference in actual crash rates between small carriers and those with 20 or more roadside inspections. 

FMCSA’s examinations further determined that the category of carriers with 11-20 inspections and patterns of non-compliance has the highest crash rates, presenting what it said is “a clear and immediate intervention opportunity for the agency to proactively bring these carriers into compliance with important safety regulations, including: hours-of-service limitations designed to prevent fatigued driving; vehicle maintenance, and; commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements.”

FMCSA said its current SMS data sufficiency standards allow the agency to effectively identify and proactively intervene with high-risk carriers before a crash involving a large truck or bus occurs. 

In March, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), a so-called watch dog organization, recommended the FMCSA increase the minimum number of required roadside safety inspections needed before prioritizing truck and bus companies for interventions.  

FMCSA disagreed, claiming a delay in responding to known non-compliant carriers would needlessly jeopardize the safety of the motoring public. 

Under current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), a carrier’s safety fitness can only be assigned following an on-site investigation and SMS is a tool to prioritize high-risk truck and bus companies for enforcement interventions, according to FMCSA.

“Today’s report underscores the critical importance of considering carriers of all sizes in the agency’s continuing efforts to remove unsafe carriers and commercial drivers from the nation’s roadways and protecting travelers everywhere,” said FMCSA in a statement.

A copy of the report is on the FMCSA website.

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