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  • Writer's pictureFront Range Compliance

FMCSA Making Changes to Identifying Unsafe Carriers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) plans to drop Item Response Theory (IRT) because of its complexity and plans to focus on improving the current model by changing the way it evaluates trucking company safety. The change was announced in a notice published February 15th, 2023.

Due to IRT being dropped, the FMCSA has committed to improving the Safety Measurement System (SMS) that has been in place since 2010. SMS will be updated through the way carriers are labeled with the highest crash risk and those not fit to operate.


The FMCSA is focused on safety for all of those on the road. Through the analyzation of the IRT model as a potential remedy to increase safety throughout the country, the FMCSA found areas that SMS could be improved to better identify high-risk carriers. This would also minimize the complications revolved around transitioning to a new system.


The proposed improvements to SMS are:

  • Reorganized and updated safety categories, including new segmentation.

  • Consolidated violations.

  • Simplified violation severity weights.

  • Proportionate percentiles instead of safety event groups.

  • Improved intervention thresholds.

  • Greater focus on recent violations.

  • Updated utilization factor.

Among these changes, the FMCSA also plans to reorganize the SMS’ seven Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) to better identify specific safety problems and the violations used in SMS by into 116 violation groups.


For example, in the Driver Fitness BASIC, carriers that operate straight trucks have much higher violation rates than those that operate combination vehicles. To correct this, the FMCSA will segment the Driver Fitness BASIC into Straight and Combination to better identify carriers with higher crash rates in both segments.


The FMCSA also will be aiming their focus on recent violations when prioritizing carriers for roadside inspections. If all of a carrier’s violations are 12 months or older, in a particular safety category, it will not be assigned a percentile in that category until new violations are found. According to the FMCSA, this change would result in 1,081 carriers no longer having a safety category at or above the threshold for the agency having to intervene. Those 1,081 carriers also had a crash rate 13% lower than the national average. This change allows for the agency to better focus its resources and efforts on carriers that pose a greater risk.

One change that will not be coming to the improved SMS is the account for differences in inspection and violation rates between states. Concerns raised about this were that differences for carriers operating in high-enforcement states led to unfair SMS results for carriers in lower-enforcement states.The FMCSA encourages all states to constantly raise their enforcement efforts to raise the bar for safety across the country.


The FMCSA is providing a 90-day comment period on the proposal, which will be due May 16.


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