The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced it will begin issuing more warning letters to motor carriers for Unsafe Driving BASIC results.
Unsafe Driving is one of the seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) in FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. FMCSA regards Unsafe Driving, along with Hours of Service Compliance and the Crash Indicator, as one of the three most critical BASICs.
Previously, carriers received warning letters when their scores for this BASIC reached a threshold of 50% for passenger carriers, 60% for hazardous materials carriers or 65% for all other carriers. Now all carriers, regardless of category, will receive a warning letter when their Unsafe Driving BASIC score is 50% or above.
What is Unsafe Driving?
The Unsafe Driving BASIC calculates its score based on violations for unsafe on-road behaviors, including:
- Using a hand-held cell phone
- Reckless driving
- Failure to wear seat belts
- Improper lane change
FMCSA clearly noted the recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report on the dramatic rise in highway fatalities in the first half of 2021, and the 2021 Operation Safe Driver Week results from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, where speeding, failure to wear seat belts, and failure to obey a traffic control device (running a stoplight or stop sign) were the top three violations among motor carriers. These violations all fall under the Unsafe Driving BASIC. FMCSA chose to alert more carriers to these safety issues before unsafe driving practices led to FMCSA intervention or worse, highway crashes.
What Should a Carrier Do Upon Receiving an FMCSA Warning Letter?
FMCSA sends warning letters to make motor carriers aware of deficiencies in safety performance. While the agency does not require carriers to respond in writing, the warning letters should trigger these carrier actions:
- Log onto the CSA Safety Measurement System (SMS) website and examine individual carrier CSA data;
- If there are any inaccuracies, challenge them through DataQs;
- If non-preventable crashes are shown, use the FMCSA Crash Preventability Determination Program to have them removed from SMS calculations;
- Take careful note of the identified unsafe driving practices, and follow the steps to improving the Unsafe Driving BASIC score, as outlined in the PrePass whitepaper, “BASICs: Improving Unsafe Driving and Crash Indicator.”
An FMCSA warning letter is a heads-up alert. More carriers will now receive warning letters about their Unsafe Driving BASIC scores. Pay attention. Actions carriers take in response can improve their Unsafe Driving BASIC score and their overall SMS score. Improved scores can preclude an FMCSA intervention and may help the motor carrier qualify or remain qualified for a bypass program like PrePass. Most important, improved driving practices can prevent crashes and save lives on the highway.