The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a major revision of its "Carrier Profile" product in mid-October. This upgrade includes significant enhancements to both the Adobe Acrobat version used for printed reports and the electronic XML version used for data analysis.

While these enhancements provide additional roadside inspection and safety audit detail, users of the report may need to revise their auditing methods to reap the full benefit of the new data. The revision will also force third-party "data enhancement" vendors to rewrite their data manipulation programs.

The Carrier Profile includes line-by-line inspection and crash data for the 24-mo. period prior to he report date, as well as the current government record of a carrier's safety rating, SafeStat information, state contact and demographic data. This information is an essential component of identification and management of at-risk driver behavior.

FMCSA started offering “hard copies” of these reports in 1996 and electronic versions in 1999. The XML electronic reports have been available since January 2003, following the agency's move to its new safety database, known as the Motor Carrier Management Information System, or MCMIS.

In terms of new features, the most notable are enhancements to roadside inspection data, including more detailed vehicle and violation information. Unit type, (semi-tractor, trailer, straight truck, etc.), license number, VIN and company unit number are provided for up to six units (power unit, trailer one, trailer two, etc.)

One of the biggest changes to the violation section is that information is now available for unlimited individual violations. Violation data had been limited to the first six violations issued for any single inspection, which meant carriers had to look at hard copies of inspection reports to find information about additional violations.

Size and weight violations have been added to the list, and traffic enforcement violations have been broken down into the following eight categories: failure to yield right of way; improper turns; speeding; reckless driving; improper passing; improper lane change; following too close; and failure to obey a traffic control device.

In addition, safety audit information has been expanded to include factor ratings, recordable accident rates, and details of recent enforcement actions.

These changes should make it easier for carriers to identify and manage at-risk drivers. Specific traffic enforcement data, for example, will allow them to identify dangerous driving behavior such as reckless driving or following too close. Size and weight violation data will help them spot overweight situations and manage pending citations or fines.

While FMCSA's revised Carrier Profile offers a number of benefits for fleets, the way it was introduced indicates a lack of communication between the agency and the trucking industry. The fact that motor carriers are the largest users of the data provided by these profiles makes it even more absurd that the only public notice of the revision was the one placed on the Safer website during the second week of October.

Many fleets first became aware of the revision when they found that the Carrier Profile data would no longer mesh with their data manipulation software. This kind of after-the-fact notification meant that many companies had to suspend their sophisticated driver management systems while their IT departments developed new data coding techniques.

My fear is that FMCSA “data architects” don't have a clear picture of who's using the information. Although the revisions were developed in response to the industry's plea for better data, the programmers seem to have been working in a vacuum. They neglected to take the software requirements of end users (carriers) into account. Imagine how much closer we could get to reaching crash reduction goals if industry and government planners, programmers and analysts worked together to develop improvements to truck safety programs.

Jim York is the manager of Zurich North America's Risk Engineering Team, based in Schaumburg, IL.