When a fleet is measured and found to be deficient in one of the seven safety categories (BASICs), the FMCSA moves into phase 2 of the three phase process – evaluation. Evaluation involves determining the best way to address the issues uncovered during the measurement phase.

Central to the evaluation process is the Safety Measurement System (SMS), which replaces the SafeStat system. SMS calculates a score for individual carriers every month, based on the previous two years of fleet history. There are a number of different calculations that combine to determine a fleet’s safety risk, and thus how a fleet is evaluated.

There are two main outcomes of the evaluation process, which result in different actions being taken.

  • No deficiencies — Where there are no known safety deficiencies, no action is taken and this is noted on the carrier’s record.

  • Safety deficiencies are uncovered (SFD) — If, during the course of CSA measurement, safety deficiencies, in one or more BASIC, are identified then it is determined how severe the failings are. The severity of the failures will influence what intervention is taken, and whether the fleet is fit to carry on operations. The Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) process will show a fleet to be either unfit or marginal. If the fleet is unfit then the FMCSA can stop the carrier from continuing operations, or, if only marginal, then it will take suitable intervention actions to resolve the issues.

Measuring a carrier’s SFD

The SFD is central to the continuing operation of a fleet, so it’s critical that fleet managers understand how SFD is determined. The FMCSA have published extensive documentation on the standards involved in SFD, however they are subject to change and the way this information is collected is also evolving.

Previously an SFD was solely determined by an onsite CR – now information can be gathered from a fleet’s on-road performance and the results from any investigation performed by the FMCSA – on or offsite.

The data collected is also aggregated and normalized across industry types to evaluate the carrier’s rank amongst similar fleets, as a fairer method of ranking safety fitness.

SMS scoring – Staying on the right side

There are literally hundreds of violations that contribute to a carrier’s SMS score, and it can be a full-time job keeping track of them all. But when a fleet’s good reputation and ongoing viability are at stake, it’s worth the effort to stay up-to-date with CSA requirements and maintain a robust safety program.

Some examples of the demerit points incurred for safety violations include:

  • Tire flat and/or audible air leak – 8 points

  • Horn inoperative – 3 points

  • Speeding 15 or more miles per hour over the speed limit – 10 points

  • No drivers record of duty status – 5 points

  • No pre-trip inspection – 4 points

Many of these safety requirements should be part of a carrier’s normal routine, but it can be a challenge to stay in compliance, no matter how conscientious a fleet is.

There are two keys to maintaining a good safety record and keeping your SMS score low:

  • Staff education — Carriers and drivers need to work together to contribute to a low SMS score. It is the best interests of both the company and drivers to keep the score as low as possible to minimize FMCSA inspections and investigations. Everyone should be familiar with the fleet’s safety standards and the requirements of CSA 2010, and what role they play.

  • GPS tracking — Fleets should automate, streamline and regulate safety guidelines as much as possible using available technology, such as GPS fleet tracking. Procedures such as tracking driver status, recording HOS and enforcing pre-trip inspections can all be accomplished using a good fleet management solution.

Keeping high safety standards will prevent an Evaluation progressing to an FMCSA Intervention, and costing your fleet in time, money and potentially lost business.