Industry Reactions to Proposed Modifications in the CSA Safety Measurement System (SMS)

Thang Truong
Thang Truong
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In the realm of carrier scoring systems, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) CSA Safety Measurement System (SMS) is on the verge of significant changes. The FMCSA’s recent solicitation for public comments on these proposed modifications concluded last week, attracting a mixed bag of reactions from industry stakeholders. While the proposed changes have generally been well-received, some critics argue they fall short of the comprehensive reform required to accurately identify at-risk carriers and reduce trucking accidents. This article examines the key proposals and industry responses to these impending changes.

Changes in the Air for CSA Safety Measurement System (SMS)

Recent moves by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to solicit feedback on potential changes to its SMS have culminated with 176 comments from the public. While generally accepted by most trucking groups, some, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), believe the changes fall short of the significant revamps needed to identify risky carriers and curb truck accidents.

The Quest for a More Comprehensive Overhaul

Notably, the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, along with others, voiced their concerns about the potential impact on smaller carriers. The argument, spearheaded by attorney Hank Seaton, is that the new changes may not improve fairness or accuracy in prioritizing carriers for safety enforcement. Instead, it could perpetuate the statistical and legal flaws inherent in the current version, thereby disadvantaging smaller carriers in terms of data acquisition. Seaton believes a full overhaul of the safety fitness determination system is necessary.

Proposed Changes and Their Implications

A key change being proposed involves renaming the current categories of measurement to “safety categories” and reorganizing them. The FMCSA also proposed to merge the 959 violations currently used in SMS with 14 additional violations into 116 new violation groups.

Despite endorsing the proposal to reorganize categories, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) recommended referring to them as “Compliance Categories” for clarity. FMCSA also plans to move the entire Controlled Substances/Alcohol category, and all operating while out-of-service (OOS) violations, into the Unsafe Driving category, along with splitting the Vehicle Maintenance category into two.

However, OOIDA countered that while practical, these reorganizations may not effectively serve FMCSA’s mission of reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. ATA also highlighted the need for further scrutiny on “Driver Observed” violations.

Adjusting Violation Severity Weights

FMCSA’s proposed modification includes a shift from the current 1-10 scale for violation severity weights to a simpler 1 or 2. However, this raised concerns among industry representatives, with ATA pointing out that it could lead to all violations having the same severity weight, regardless of the actual severity of the violation.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance echoed similar concerns, arguing that the changes could lead to skewed representations of a motor carrier’s safety performance.

Focus on Recent Violations

A major proposed change involves only assigning percentiles to carriers that had at least one violation in a safety category in the past 12 months. While CVSA and OOIDA see this as a positive modification, the Truck Safety Coalition criticised FMCSA for reducing the focus to just one year, arguing that not all carriers receive a roadside inspection annually.

In conclusion, while the proposed changes in the SMS are viewed as steps in the right direction by some industry groups, others argue they may not effectively address the current challenges in the trucking industry. It remains to be seen how these concerns will be addressed in the final version of the modifications.

Thang Truong

Thang Truong covers small business insurance and small business success at BravoPolicy. He is a licensed P&C insurance agent. Previously, he held product leadership positions at, Capital One, NerdWallet, and Mulberry Technology. He holds a MBA degree from UC Berkeley - Haas School of Business.

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