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Report Says New Record-Keeping System More Stringent Than SafeStat
Monday, 04 January 2010 00:00

As part of its Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 program, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is introducing its new record-keeping system known as SMS, or safety management system.

SMS will use every safety-related inspection violation, a more stringent approach than the outgoing data system called SafeStat, which included only moving violations and out-of-service orders.

SMS concentrates on seven safety issues, such as unsafe driving, that are compiled from federal, state and local law enforcement and used to determine what companies are investigated.

The other six categories are: fatigued driving, driver fitness such as licensing, drug and alcohol violations, cargo securement failures, other vehicle defects such as brake problems and crashes in which a fleet is involved.

Each carrier will receive a score based on those seven violation types and their severity, as judged by the agency with a score from 1 to 10, with 10 as the worst score.

“CSA 2010 has great potential to help us all achieve a reduction in truck and bus crashes and fatalities,” said Rose McMurray, associate administrator at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration during a Dec. 10 webinar. “Test results in 2010 are very encouraging. We are reaching a far greater base of carriers with a broader array of interventions.”

“We are moving from only discovering what’s wrong to identifying why it’s wrong and then working with carriers on how to fix it,” said Alan Pirowarski, CSA 2010 training manager. “We want to fix it and work with you on repairing what is wrong with your system so we have sustained compliance over time.”

One new tool the agency will use is a warning letter, which Pirowarski described as “a tap on the shoulder” to alert fleets to defects without issuing a formal violation.

During CSA 2010 tests in nine states, more than 5,000 such letters have been issued, according to Capt. Mark Savage, a Colorado state police officer who is assigned to the CSA program.

FMCSA will do both on-site investigations, as it does now, and off-site investigations based on data it’s gathered.

It’s also creating new options for carriers to comply, using a four-tiered approach.

Violations can be addressed through a voluntary safety compliance plan in the first tier of enforcement and an out-of-service order will be the toughest of the four penalties.

Notices of violation or fines are the two intermediate compliance options. A notice of violation will require carriers to prove that violations have been corrected. Fines, the second most severe penalty, also are a compliance option.

Savage emphasized the importance of accumulating and communicating accurate information to FMCSA about roadside violations and accidents.

“We’re not only going to use that information to determine who to investigate, but also how to allocate our resources,” Savage said. “The data reflects the overall integrity of the program. The importance of this data cannot be underestimated.”

Inaccurate information in SafeStat was highlighted in government reports beginning in 2003 and prompted FMCSA to conceive and develop CSA.

To demonstrate the progress that has been made in improving data quality, Savage said that 41 states had the highest rating of “green” for data accuracy in 2009, compared with just 24 in 2004.

The agency has taken several steps to improve SafeStat’s data quality, former Administrator John Hill testified at a 2007 House hearing. The steps included funding to states for a program to upgrade data quality, and publication of a nationwide map that showed how much improvement states made in providing accurate, timely data.

In that testimony, he said states reported details of 32% more crashes involving large trucks though the actual number of accidents actually declined.

Just two jurisdictions, Arizona and the District of Columbia, had the worst grades in 2009, compared with 14 jurisdictions five years earlier.

Transport Topics, 1/4/2010