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Study Recommends Changes to FMCSA’s SMS

Changes to SMS.pngChanges could be coming to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Adminstration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program. A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggests that areas of the Safety Measurement System (SMS) could use improvement!

What Was Reviewed in the Study

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 required the FMCSA to sponsor a study on the SMS. Released this year, the report, Improving Motor Carrier Safety Measurement, looked at how well SMS assessed motor carriers’ safety, as well as reviewed the data and methods used to assess safety. The study found that while SMS was fair for the most part, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine did have recommendations to improve it.



The report found that some of what the FMCSA does for SMS is not empircally-based. The report would like to see the FMCSA adopt “a more statistically principled approach” and use an item response theory approach to assess motor carrier safety. The study lists many advantages of adopting this method such as improved “transparency of the evaluation system” and that it can be adapted over time.

It was recommended that the FMCSA makes changes to the way it collects data for its Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS). More specifically, the report would like to see the FMCSA to work with states to improve the quality of the data collected for exposure and crash data. Interestingly, one of the data elements that the study also suggested that the FMCSA start collecting was “the carrier’s cargo, the driver turnover rate, and the level of driver compensation.” It was noted that additional funds would be required to implement this data collection and that the FMCSA would have to work with states to standardize the collection of data. 

Additionally, it was recommended that the FMCSA improve the transparency of how MCMIS and SMS work by providing data (with no identifiable information to protect privacy) that would allow motor carriers and others to replicate results. It was also recommended shutterstock_357819458.jpgthat the FMCSA investigate further before making SMS percentile ranks public. The National Academies of Sciences also recommended that the FMCSA “consider use of a two-dimensional measure that takes into consideration both the SMS score and the percentile ranks…” to measure motor carriers’ safety.  

What Does This Mean For Fleets and Drivers?

Commercial Carrier Journal reports that the FMCSA is currently reviewing the report and has shutterstock_435246487.jpgnot said how or when they will implement the recommended changes. CCJ also noted that the FMCSA will respond to the report within 120 days. Although no formal timeline has been announced, it is likely that the FMCSA will implement the recommendations. These changes will have a positive effect of SMS, making it more reliable, transparent, and fair.  

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