The mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to “reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.” To facilitate this mission, the FMCSA uses the Safety Measurement System (SMS), to rank commercial motor vehicle carriers by the degree to which they operate safely¹. This year, the FMCSA was charged by Congress to have its Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program and its SMS reviewed by a third party in order to “examine the effectiveness of the use of the percentile ranks produced by the SMS for identifying high-risk carriers, and if not, what alternatives might be preferred,” which is consistent with the requirements of Section 5221 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act¹. On June 27, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published its report, “Improving Motor Carrier Safety Measurement,” that included six recommendations that are open for public comment.
The six key recommendations made by the NAS report have to do with data collection and making that collection process better, more transparent and user friendly data outputs, and to re-focus on characteristics that should be measured. The previous SMS program received complaints from many in the industry because scores and rankings may not correctly or fairly reflect what’s happening on our highways and may include inappropriate safety rankings. These recommendations are aimed at making the program line up better to what’s happening in the real-world and provide a better tool for the public and researchers to use.
Having the NAS examine this program is a great first step to getting improved safety standard reporting established. Next steps include evaluating feedback from an FMCSA public meeting that was held September 8 (you can find the Correlation Study Plan Action Public Meeting Notes here) and the FMCSA incorporating public comments. The public comment period remains open until September 27. Based on the NAS recommendations, public hearing feedback and comments, the FMCSA will then come up with a workable action plan on how to move forward with the SMS program. That plan is then to be submitted to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The DOT Office of the Inspector General is required to review the action plan and submit a report to Congress as to the responsiveness of the FMCSA’s plan to the NAS report’s recommendations.
If you have an opinion on the NAS report’s findings and recommendations then now is the time to make your voice be heard. To submit a comment online, visit https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=FMCSA-2017-0226. By mail, include the docket number – FMCSA-2017-0226 – with your comments and send to: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room W-12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001.
For more information on the NAS report or to download a copy, visit https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24818/improving-motor-carrier-safety-measurement.
¹ National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, “Improving Motor Carrier Safety Measurement” June 2017