DOT Safety Regulation Update - Week of August 27, 2012

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced last Friday that its signature CSA compliance monitoring system would undergo a huge overhaul in December. The changes, which will literally rewrite sections of the system, were designed to quell strong criticism from inside and out of the industry about the effectiveness of the program.

Rewritten BASICs
The most obvious changes are aimed at the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). The Cargo-Related BASIC has been removed and replaced while the Fatigued Driving BASIC has undergone a rebranding. To replace the Cargo-Related BASIC, FMCSA has added a new category, Hazardous Materials Compliance, which will, unsurprisingly, focus only on HazMat violations. The end result will be a very different CSA dashboard when the changes go into effect.

Tweaks and Fixes
Other changes include aligning the Safety Measurement System (SMS) with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s inspections program. This would eliminate vehicle violations from driver-only inspections and driver violation from vehicle-only inspections.

Furthermore, the Agency is removing speeding violations for infractions that were 1-5 mph over the limit. This is a nod to the fact that the regulations only require a speedometer to be accurate within 5-mph, thereby allowing some drivers to be ticketed without being able to tell that they were (slightly) speeding. Also related to speeding, the severity weight for a generic speeding violation has been dropped to one.

Hazardous Materials Compliance
The new BASIC, Hazardous Materials Compliance — or HM Compliance — focuses on carriers hauling or packaging hazmats. Many of the violations in this BASIC have been pulled from the now defunct Cargo-Related BASIC but the system has been refined to point a laser-eye on hazmat carriers.

According to FMCSA, “the HM Compliance BASIC identifies carriers with higher HM violation rates (33.8% versus 29.1%) and HM out-of-service rates (5.4% vs. 4.0%) than the current Cargo- Related BASIC. The HM Compliance BASIC will be available to logged-in motor carriers and enforcement personnel in December 2012. Further study over the next year will be conducted before it becomes available to the public.”

Vehicle Maintenance
While Vehicle Maintenance has been a part of CSA from the beginning, the latest changes give it a huge boost in importance. Many violations from the old Cargo-Related BASIC have been ported over to Vehicle Maintenance. FMCSA has also taken steps to make the weight of the violations in the new BASIC to be a little more fair and accurate than the old one. One of the issues the agency cited was that the weights of the violations were causing the agency to issue interventions on a disproportionate number of flatbed carriers. That, and similar issues, should now be fixed. With the violations changed to this degree, carriers should expect big changes to their Vehicle Maintenance scores.

Hours-of-Service Compliance
The Hours-of-Service Compliance BASIC — or HOS Compliance — is simply a rebranding of the old Fatigued Driving BASIC with very few changes. However, FMCSA, have, for the first time, given paper log and electronic log violations the same weight. This is, perhaps, a nod to the future in which FMCSA would like to see more usage of EOBRs and electronic time-management.

Changing Scores
Obviously, with new BASICS, there will be new scores; however, carriers should be prepared for the new information that will be released in December. Until now, the Cargo-Related violations have remained private, those violations can now be seen by shippers and insurers in the public vehicle maintenance BASIC, if you have work to do to repair your Cargo-Related scores, make sure you get it done before December.