FMCSA Is Changing How It Identifies Unsafe Carriers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) wants to simplify the way they prioritizes road side safety interventions. They have plans to change the way trucking company safety is evaluated. In order to accomplish this the existing ranking system will need to be overhauled and upgraded as opposed to simply installing a new one.

In this notice, the FMCSA announced they have determined that an advanced statistical model referred to as the Item Response Theory (IRT) is “overly complex”. The Item Response Theory (IRT) is a model that was touted by the National Academy of Sciences. As a result, the FMCSA will not be using the IRT model and decided to commit to improving their own Safety Management System (SMS). The new improved SMS system would be utilized to determine how FMCSA will label carriers with the highest crash risk and how they designate which are not fit to operate.

“Safety is FMCSA’s core mission. The proposed changes are part of the agency’s continued commitment to enhancing the fairness, accuracy and clarity of our prioritization system.”

Robin Hutcheson, the administrator of FMCSA

These changes are a result of the ongoing pressure from Congress to improve the way FMCSA evaluates carrier safety fitness. Congress has been persistent – continuing pressure on the heels of their previous FAST Act of 2015 which aimed to reduce the number of crashes. In 2019 the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General further increased this pressure when it called for FMCSA to expedite improvements.

FMCSA summarized the proposed improvements to SMS as:

  • Reorganized and updated safety categories, including new segmentation.
  • Consolidated violations.
  • Simplified violation severity weights.
  • Proportionate percentiles instead of safety event groups.
  • Improved intervention thresholds.
  • Greater focus on recent violations.
  • Updated utilization factor.

The Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is critical of the changes FMCSA has proposed. They believe the agency should not be wasting their resources and efforts on such changes and should be focusing on more important areas.

“The overwhelming majority of data the agency collects and analyzes has no connection to crashes – none. The cause of highway safety would be best served by the agency moving ahead swiftly with the Large Truck Safety Causal factors study authorized by Congress. You never fix any problem without a clear understanding of what caused it.”

Todd Spencer, President of the OOIDA
FMCSA is providing a 90-day comment period on the proposal, which will be due May 16. The agency is also conducting four public online question-and-answer webinars. Registration for those can be found here

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