Because the current Safety Management System (SMS) implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is under much criticism from safety advocates, trucking accident lawyers, and many commercial carrier industry professionals, it is being overhauled. Trucking accident attorneys recognize the SMS as a means of predicting carrier safety using a scoring system designed to predict the risk of trucking accidents.
This system was developed as part of the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program. Yet those who have seen this system in action suggest that the current methodology used in determining scores is faulty and does not actually represent the true risk.
Purpose of the Safety Measurement System
According to the FMCSA, their SMS that was developed as a part of the CSA program, predicts a carrier’s risk of being involved in trucking accidents by using collected safety and violation data. The SMS calculates both carrier and driver scores using information such as driver behavior, Hours of Service (HOS) violations and safety violations, truck maintenance violations, previous accidents, and other relevant data.
It is designed to provide carriers with an impartial, yet accurate means of determining safety risk so they can improve their safety compliance and employ the best drivers. These scores are also important to trucking accident lawyers representing clients injured by trucks.
Criticisms to Current Scoring System
Although the trucking industry as a whole and trucking accident attorneys who deal with injury cases find the SMS to be an important tool for estimating and reducing safety risk, many find it to be incomplete. Results of a recent report on the effectiveness of this program point out inconsistencies in the scoring methodology that suggest unfair scoring in some instances due to the way in which data was collected and used.
Complaints point to issues such as the following:
- Trucks are all gauged using the same method but do a wide variety of jobs.
- Trucking accidents determined not to be the carrier’s fault are not being accounted for.
- Carrier measures to improve safety are not being considered.
There are other concerns about data collection and interpretation as well.
Industry professionals and trucking accident lawyers have stressed the need for improved methods of gathering pertinent data as well as the inclusion of a broader data set to produce more accurate results.
FMCSA to Revise Safety Fitness Methodology
Prompted by the many complaints regarding the current SMS formulation, the FMCSA recently dropped a proposed rule that would make the SMS law for determining safety fitness of commercial carriers. Instead, the Administration has requested studies from the National Academies of Science (NAS) to decide whether changes to the SMS are required and what they should be.
In the meantime, representatives from the American Trucking Associations, trucking accident attorneys, and many other industry insiders have stressed the need to continue developing the CSA while overhauling the SMS scoring system.
While the FMCSA’s CSA program seems to be on the right track for monitoring and improving safety compliance, trucking accident lawyers understand this program is far from perfect. To more accurately predict which carriers and operators present the biggest risk of trucking accidents without unnecessarily penalizing safer carriers, a more accurate method of gathering and using safety data must be developed!
Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Robert W. Hildebrand, Attorney at Law
J. Daniel Wilson, Attorney at Law
7830 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
Phone: (281) 410-5810