The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced “planned improvements” to the carrier Safety Measurement System (SMS), which was first implemented in December 2010 as part of the agency’s broader Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) safety-compliance program.

A preview of the extensive changes are now available to both motor carriers and law-enforcement agencies. The changes are scheduled to be available for viewing by the public in July. FMCSA noted there will be “additional opportunity for public comment on the changes” after the preview period ends in July.

FMCSA said the improvements to SMS, announced in a notice published in the Federal Register for March 27, are based on ongoing analysis and feedback from enforcement personnel, the motor carrier industry, and other stakeholders.

The changes include an adjustment to SMS methodology that will “identify higher risk carriers while addressing industry biases;” better applications of SMS results for agency interventions by “more accurately identifying safety-sensitive carriers” such as carriers transporting people or hauling hazardous materials (HM); and more specific fact-based displays of SMS results on the SMS website.

Motor carriers can find the data preview at http://csa.fmcsa.dot.gov/. During the data-preview period, FMCSA is requesting comments on the impacts of the changes. Comments must be received on or before May 29 and should include supporting data.

“Moving forward,” stated the agency, “FMCSA plans to apply a systematic approach to making improvements to SMS, prioritizing and releasing packages of improvements as needed.”

This “package” of SMS enhancements includes strengthening the vehicle maintenance BASIC by moving cargo/load securement violations from the cargo-related BASIC to the vehicle maintenance BASIC; simultaneously renaming the cargo-related BASIC the HM BASIC, which will better identify HM-related safety problems and change how HM carriers are classified to allow for increased intervention scrutiny; better aligning SMS with Intermodal Equipment Provider (IEP) regulations; aligning violations that are included in SMS with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) inspection levels; and improving the identification of passenger carriers.

In addition, the agency will modify the SMS website display to change current terminology, including the terms “insufficient data” and “inconclusive,” to fact-based definitions that clarify the carrier’s status in each BASIC and distinguish between crashes with injuries and crashes with fatalities.

Following the preview period, FMCSA said it may further refine the new methodology before implementation and release of the revised SMS results to the public.