New BASIC Standards from the FMCSA

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced proposals for 2013 that will amend the way motor carriers are evaluated and safety ratings are determined. The main focus of the 2013 amendments will allow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to lower carriers’ safety ratings without needing to perform an audit on-site.

The current system mandates an on-site audit and warning notifications once the carrier has exceeded the intervention threshold in any of the seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC). The senior transportation specialist for the federal agency doesn’t feel every violation realistically warrants an on-site audit.

The proposed amendments to the current Compliance, Accountability and Safety regulations would call for an on-site audit once the carrier accumulated BASIC infractions that exceed 80 percent of the other carriers in the safety group. Hazmat carriers would be held to a stricter standard and would be subject to an on-site audit once BASIC infractions exceed 75 percent of the rest of the hazmat group. In order to warrant a hazmat classification, carriers will need two qualified hazmat inspections and a minimum of five percent of the carrier’s total inspections must be hazmat qualified.

The senior transportation specialist also discussed how the Safety Management System formulas qualify that the safety scores are closely related to crash rates. According to the Safety Management System, carriers that had a BASIC infraction had a crash rate that was 3.9 percent higher than the average. Carriers that the Safety Management System categorized as high risks had crash rates that were double the national average. The Unsafe Driving, Vehicle Maintenance and Hours-of-Service BASICs produced the strongest correlations with higher projected crash risks. The Safety Management System also found that the Driver Fitness BASIC had an inverse correlation with the risk of a collision.

The senior transportation specialist acknowledged that BASIC is not the most accurate indicator. However, around 75 percent of the carriers that have low Safety Management System performance also exceed the BASIC parameters. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is focused on making the on-site audit thresholds stricter for the BASICs with higher crash risk implications. The federal agency only has enough resources to reasonably evaluate less than a third of the 750,000 carriers with a minimum of one BASIC infraction. However, the agency currently has information on over 90 percent of the carriers that actually have had collisions.

The senior transportation specialist also noted that the Driver Fitness BASIC now delineates whether or not the infraction is related to safety or some other type of violation. Driver BASIC infractions related to safety will be weighted more heavily against those that don’t have safety implications. Among other recent changes, marginal speed violations are being eliminated, improper securement infractions will be included in Driver BASIC and the Hazmat BASIC will be used in audits but won’t be publicized.

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