The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that is a game changer if it becomes final.

According to the proposal, roadside inspection data, investigations (audits), or a combination of the two could result in a motor carrier being declared Unfit. The NPRM is one of the finishing touches on the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) enforcement model.

Two Strikes and You’re Out!

The FMCSA’s current regulations limit the agency to a detailed audit of a motor carrier’s records (i.e., compliance review) to determine the motor carrier’s safety fitness. The review uses a list of acute and critical violations, resulting in one of three ratings: Satisfactory, Conditional, and Unsatisfactory leading to Unfit.
The FMCSA proposes to eliminate the three-tiered approach and replace it with a simple “Pass” or “Unfit” safety fitness determination (SFD) based on roadside inspection results and investigations. A motor carrier is declared Unfit if two CSA behavior analysis and safety improvement categories (BASICs) are failed.

For recordable accidents and drug and alcohol violations, the FMCSA will only use the results of an investigation. This is due to the fact that preventability is not determined for accidents in the Crash Indicator BASIC, and violations from on-road safety data would rarely meet the data sufficiency standard.

Based on the proposal, a carrier is considered Unfit if it fails at least: two BASICs using its BASIC measures, two BASICs as the result of an investigation, or one BASIC measure and one as the result of an investigation for a different BASIC.

What Constitutes ‘Failing’?

The FMCSA will continue to use a list of acute and critical regulations. Instead of categorizing these violations by factors, the SFD model is parallel to CSA. Violations are grouped within one of the following six BASICs: Unsafe Driving, Hours-of-Service (HOS) Compliance, Vehicle Maintenance, Controlled Substance (drug) and Alcohol, Hazardous Materials (HM) Compliance, and Driver Fitness.

During an investigation of a motor carrier’s records, it will pass or fail a BASIC rather than be assessed points that add up for one of the three overall ratings.

Noncompliance with a single acute regulation is considered a serious violation, while critical regulations are identified through patterns of noncompliance. Critical violations suggest a breakdown in a carrier’s safety management controls. During a carrier audit, a violation of an acute regulation or a violation rate of more than 10% of a critical regulation results in a failure of the BASIC.

As for the Crash Indicator BASIC, the FMCSA will continue to use the current crash rate formula by multiplying the motor carrier’s number of recordable interstate and intrastate crashes in the previous 12 months by 1,000,000. That result is divided by the motor carrier’s fleet mileage during the previous 12 months. The failure standard for crash rates is 1.5 for general operations and 1.7 for urban operations. If the motor carrier exceeds the failure standard, it fails the Crash Indicator BASIC. Note that only preventable crashes are used in the calculation, but it is up to the carrier to point out to the auditor the ones that were non-preventable.

Safety Performance on the Road

Using the same roadside inspection data and algorithms as the CSA Safety Measurement System (SMS), the agency proposes to use BASIC measures to determine a pass/fail status, with the exception of the Crash Indicator and Controlled Substance and Alcohol BASICs.

The BASIC measure is calculated using time- and severity-weighted roadside inspection violations and exposure on the road as a normalizer. For four of the five BASICs, the normalizer is time-weighted relevant inspections, while the Unsafe Driving BASIC takes into account the makeup of your fleet, vehicle miles traveled, and the average number of power units. In the SMS, this calculation is one step away from the peer comparison (safety event group). Carriers with fewer than 11 inspections with violations in a BASIC would not be subject to the pass/fail evaluation of their roadside data in that BASIC.

In the proposed rule, the FMCSA has taken a snapshot of current BASIC measures to determine what defines a failure for each safety event group for these five BASICs. These thresholds will remain constant. The BASIC measure for each safety event group is currently equivalent to 96% for Unsafe Driving and HOS Compliance BASICs; and 99% for Driver Fitness, Vehicle Maintenance, and HM Compliance BASICs.
Simply, it means carriers with the BASIC measures used to establish the thresholds presently have a BASIC score of 96 or 99 in these respective BASICs.

Not a Done Deal

Stakeholders have an opportunity to offer comments on the FMCSA’s pitch for a new safety rating process. Parties have until March 21, 2016, for initial comments on the NPRM, and April 20, 2016, for reply comments. Visit and search for Docket No. FMCSA–2015–0001 or RIN 2126–AB11. 

About the Author
Kathy Close is a transportation editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. Her areas of expertise include transportation security, DOT drug and alcohol testing, and driver qualification. She can be reached at