FMCSA Proposed Program Updates: Everything You Need To Know

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has recently proposed significant changes to the CSA—its carrier safety management program. If adopted, these changes will likely take effect later in 2023. It’s essential for any organization that operates in the trucking industry to understand the possible impact of the proposed changes and make necessary adjustments to their safety and compliance programs. This blog will cover the FMCSA’s proposed changes and their impact on the industry. 

Importance of Staying in Compliance

As new regulations are introduced, it’s important to anticipate change and stay in compliance. Most FMCSA motor carrier safety data is publicly available, and many shippers pay close attention to carrier CSA scores.

Therefore, unremedied safety alerts may impact a motor carrier’s ability to earn contracts with some shippers. Alerts are also carefully reviewed by underwriters during the insurance renewal process. Having acceptable CSA scores are crucial to insurance renewal decisions and ensuring costs stay low. 

Proposed Changes and Their Impact

The following are the proposed program updates fleets would face if adopted, and how they would impact your organization:

1. Proposed change: Roadside violations will be grouped into safety categories. If a carrier has excess violations in a category, that would trigger a safety alert and increase the chances of a federal audit. The UNSAFE category is expanded to include all Operating While Out of Service (OOS) violations and all drug and alcohol violations.

Impact: The new UNSAFE category would cover more violations. This would lead to higher UNSAFE CSA scores and an increased probability of a targeted intervention. 

2. Proposed change: The maintenance category would be split into Driver Observed and Vehicle Maintenance categories. Anything a driver finds during the pre- or post-trip inspection would be included in the first category. Issues a roadside inspector would find during a level one or annual inspection would fall under the second category. 

Impact: This places a renewed importance on driver pre-and post-trip inspections. Frequent Driver Observed violations would make it easier for FMCSA to identify fleets that are not attentive to vehicle maintenance.

3. Proposed change: Currently, a fleet may be subject to one or more of 959 roadside violations. These violations would be streamlined into 116 violation groups, with similar violations grouped together. If a carrier receives more than one violation in a group, it would be treated as a single violation on their safety score, even though the multiple issues would still be listed in the inspection report. 

Impact: Carriers (and roadside inspectors) could more easily identify safety issues by a group than as individual violations. This would allow a carrier to focus on problems in a safety category versus specific violations, reducing redundant points and stacking of violations for the carrier. 

4. Proposed change: Each roadside violation would be given a severity weight, with carriers receiving higher points for more severe violations. Violations currently carry 1 to 10 points. With the proposed rule changes, violations would carry either 1 or 2 points, with all violations receiving one point, and multiple violations in a group or out of service, severe violations receiving 2 points. 

Impact:  This change would allow FMCSA to target higher-risk trucking companies more quickly. The FMCSA determined that assigning customized weights to all violations was not as important as noting the violation occurred. This helps identify carriers with higher crash rates and makes it clear why specific violations are weighted more heavily than others.

5. Proposed change: Once a carrier receives enough points in a Safety Category, it would be placed in Alert status. Some of the ALERT thresholds would change under the new rules.

Impact: Carriers could already know their safety scores under the new rules now. Simply log in to your portal account and use the Prioritization Preview tool to see exactly how the new system would impact your scores.

6. Proposed change: Carrier scores would be determined based on the carrier’s performance in their assigned safety event group. Sometimes, a change in assignment from one group to another would cause scores to fluctuate. If you’ve experienced radical changes in your scores due to changes in your safety event group, the FMCSA would address this problem by using the exact number of inspections and crashes versus safety event groupings.

Impact: Theoretically, this would reduce the chance of significant score fluctuation when your group is changed. 

7. Proposed change: Outside of crashes, the FMCSA would use only the current 12-month violation history to determine when a carrier is targeted for intervention. If you do not have a violation in the last year, your status would not be able to be ALERT in that category. 

Impact: This would prioritize recent behavior. Carriers who have recent negative violation trends would run a higher risk of intervention. Carriers who show a positive recent trend would lower their chances of intervention. 

Creating an Action Plan

All of these changes could possibly increase the number of carriers flagged for an audit. Therefore, if your fleet has safety alerts on its CSA profile, or if its scoring trends are negative, it’s time to act now.

Focus on the safety and compliance fundamentals of your organization. Understand and identify your most common violations and develop an action plan to address them. If there are any violations that don’t belong on your record, challenge them using the Data Q system. Furthermore, pay attention to your CSA scores and act swiftly if you see any negative changes. 

Log into your current SMS record here. The CSA Prioritization Preview will show you the potential impact on your scores.

Be Proactive With RRL Insurance

These changes proposed by the FMCSA should not be a means for panic. Staying proactive with your safety management and compliance practices is key to maintaining solid CSA scores. At RRL Insurance, we are risk management experts who have vast experience serving clients in the trucking industry. We are committed to developing mutually beneficial relationships to provide you with total security, no matter what changes may arise. For more information on our services, please contact us today to set up an appointment.

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