An Open Book

What the FMCSA’s new “Compliance, Safety, Accountability” website says about you and your waste saftey record.

Editor’s Note: Mattei Insurance Services has advertised in Waste Age in the past.

On Dec. 14, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) website went live. At that time, much of the data contained in the CSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) regarding motor carriers (including waste haulers) was made available to the general public. With a few clicks of a mouse, insurance companies, municipalities and potential customers are now able to view over 70 percent of the safety data in the SMS for a specific waste hauler. With this in mind, it is important for waste haulers to have a strategy to review, correct and act upon data contained in the SMS.

The SMS rates motor carriers in seven different categories it calls “BASICs”:

  • Unsafe Driving
  • Fatigued Driving
  • Driver Fitness
  • Controlled Substances/Alcohol
  • Vehicle Maintenance
  • Cargo-Related
  • Crash Indicator

A waste company’s measurement in each BASIC is based upon the number of traffic violations or crashes, the severity of the violations or crashes, and when the violations or crashes occurred (more recent events are weighted more heavily). The data is gathered from roadside inspections and state-reported crashes.

Once a measurement for each category is determined, the motor carrier is grouped with other carriers with a similar number of inspections. A company’s score for each BASIC category is a percentile determined by comparing that company’s measurement with that of the other motor carriers in the same group. Somewhat counterintuitively, a score of zero is the best while a score of 100 is the worst. At the present time, the general public can only view five of the seven BASICs relating to a specific motor carrier, as scores and data in the Crash Indicator and Cargo-Related BASICs are hidden.

When one or more of a motor carrier’s BASIC percentiles exceeds a certain threshold, that carrier becomes a candidate for intervention. The most common type of intervention is a warning letter sent to the carrier indicating the need to take steps to improve safety performance. If problems persist, more aggressive interventions — such as targeted roadside inspections and onsite compliance reviews — may take place. Motor carriers that have ongoing safety performance problems may face civil penalties or could even face an order to cease operations.

Waste companies should be proactive in their approach to the CSA rather than wait for a warning letter. The first step for any waste firm should be to go to the CSA website to review its SMS data. First-time users will need to obtain a PIN to access all of the BASICs in the SMS, including those hidden from the general public.

The CSA website allows the user to see specifics (date, location, license plate number and type of violation) for each violation in the system. The site does provide a way for a waste company to dispute any data in the system that it feels is erroneous. And there have been some data quality issues with FMCSA’s database, according to National Solid Wastes Management Association Safety Director David Biderman, who urges waste companies to contact FMCSA if they identify incorrect information.

The site also allows the user to download BASIC data in an Excel spreadsheet to facilitate analysis. By analyzing the information in the SMS, a waste company can identify specific drivers, vehicles, locations or inadequate control measures that may be the source of the violations. Again, it is much better for a waste company to initiate its own plan to improve its BASIC scores than to have a plan forced upon it by the FMCSA.

Bruce Hooker works for Mattei Insurance Services, Inc. based in Sacramento, Calif.

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