The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is charged with enacting and enforcing regulations for commercial trucks and other vehicles in interstate commerce. As an accident attorney representing clients in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against trucking companies, I investigate FMCSA regulation violations after accidents to find evidence of negligence and to determine if there is a history of safety violations that would provide the basis for a claim for punitive damages.
As an enforcement aid, FMCSA recently developed the Safety Measurement System (SMS), which identifies safety problems to determine who to investigate and where to focus the investigation. SMS quantifies semi truck on-road safety performance by behavioral analysis and safety improvement categories (BASICs). FMCSA uses SMS to:
- Identify trucking companies and other motor carriers with safety problems that present crash risks;
- Determine the specific safety problems that require intervention, such as warning letters, investigations and roadside inspections; and
- Monitor safety performances for improvement.
What are the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs)?
The BASICs sort a trucking company’s safety information into seven categories, elements of which have varying violation severity weights, which are based on crash risk:
- Unsafe Driving — Operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs – includes 18-wheelers and other commercial trucks) in a dangerous or careless manner, for example, speeding, reckless driving, improper lane change, and inattention. (FMCSR Parts 392 and 397)
- Fatigued Driving (Hours-of-Service) — Operation of CMVs by truck drivers who are ill, fatigued, or in non-compliance with the Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations, which may include exceeding HOS or not maintaining an accurate and complete HOS logbook. (FMCSR Parts 392 and 395)
- Driver Fitness — Operation of CMVs by drivers who are unfit to operate a CMV under federal law due to lack of a valid and appropriate commercial driver’s license, training, experience, or medical qualifications. (FMCSR Parts 383 and 391)
- Controlled Substances and Alcohol — Operation of CMVs by drivers who are impaired due to alcohol, illegal drugs, and misuse of prescription or over-the-counter medications. (FMCSR Parts 382 and 392)
- Vehicle Maintenance — Failure to properly maintain a CMV by making required repairs of brakes, lights, the engine, and the exterior of truck, including the hitch assembly. (FMCSR Parts 393 and 396)
- Cargo-Related — Failure to properly prevent shifting loads, spilled or dropped cargo, and unsafe handling of hazardous materials. (FMCSR Parts 392, 393, 397 and applicable DOT HM regulations)
- Crash History — SMS evaluates a trucking company or other motor carrier’s crash history. Although crash history is not specifically a behavior, it is often the consequence of unsafe behavior. The crash history is based on information from state-reported crash reports and identifies histories or patterns of high crash involvement, including frequency and severity.
SMS safety violations data can be helpful in litigating an accident insurance claim for personal injury or wrongful death. I look for safety violations that may have directly caused the accident and for a history of safety violations, which may be used to claim gross negligence. If you would like a free consultation with me regarding an accident with a semi truck or other commercial vehicle, call 1-888-377-8900 (toll free) or submit our free consultation form.
Attorney Eric Hageman represents accident victims and their families throughout the United States. He has been given the highest rating by Martindale-Hubbell for an attorney, AV Preeminent, and was recently named an “Attorney of the Year” by Minnesota Lawyer, a respected legal publication.