Last updated: October 2, 2023
Following BASIC safety procedures while on the road doesn’t seem like a very big deal. If you’re a truck driver, however, BASIC safety violations can keep you from getting behind the wheel.
According to statistics put out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), five million truckers share the road with more than 250 million motorists on any given day. As far as FMCSA is concerned, there are millions of truckers out on the road, and with the general public numbering in the hundreds of millions, it doesn’t leave a margin for error.
That’s why they formed the CSA
CSA stands for compliance, safety, and accountability—it’s the national safety compliance and enforcement program. Therefore, the FMCSA holds motor carriers and drivers regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) personally accountable for their continued role in practicing safe driving procedures.
Drivers receive a safety score for each of the seven categories in the Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories—otherwise known as the BASIC.
Measuring up to the measurement system
A company’s safety data appears online in the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System. Data received from roadside inspections is entered into the system each month. This data includes driver and vehicle violations, crash reports from the last two years, and investigation results.
The SMS looks at the following data:
- Number of safety violations and inspections
- The severity of safety violations or crashes
- When the safety violations occurred, with recent events weighted more heavily
- The number of trucks or buses operated by a carrier and the number of vehicle miles traveled
- Acute and Critical Violations discovered during investigations
The BASIC categories
The FMCSA uses seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories—the BASICs—to rate a motor carrier’s safety performance and compliance in relation to other carriers.
Five of the seven are accessible online in the SMS, but the other two aren’t public information. The Crash Indicator score and the Hazardous Materials Compliance score are only available to motor carriers that log into their own safety profile or to enforcement personnel.
Let’s take a look at all seven categories individually.
Unsafe Driving category
The Unsafe Driving BASIC prioritizes interventions for repeated unsafe behaviors, as listed in 49 CFR Parts 392 and 397 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).
- Using a hand-held cell phone
- Reckless driving
- Improper lane change
The SMS gathers its data from roadside inspection reports whether or not a State officer issues a citation or a verbal warning. Accordingly, recorders document State-issued citations only if issued during a roadside inspection.
Crash Indicator category
The purpose of this category is to understand crash patterns to help identify and address safety problems.
The SMS gathers state-reported crashes from the last two years to help identify patterns of high-crash involvement. The SMS also tries to determine the behavior or set of behaviors that contributed to the crash. A crash, as defined in 49 CFR 390.5, involving a commercial motor vehicle is recorded by the SMS if it results in a fatality or an injury. The SMS also documents crashes if the vehicle is transported from the crash scene.
This isn’t public information but, as stated above, motor carriers can access it by logging into their personal account. Enforcement personnel can access crash information as well.
There aren’t any regulations specifically attached to this category. Still, the SMS stresses that motor carriers must comply with the FMCSRs. Not doing so puts them at increased risk of being involved in an accident. That impacts a carrier’s percentile in the Crash Indicator BASIC.
Hours-of-Service (HOS) are regulated so that drivers aren’t overcome with fatigue while out on the road. This BASIC relates to regulation 49 CFR Parts 392 and 395 of the FMCSRs.
The HOS regulations make our roadways safer by requiring all large truck and bus drivers to rest after logging a specific number of hours. Being well-rested ensures that drivers are awake, alert, and able to respond to unforeseen situations quickly.
Vehicle Maintenance category
Federal regulations 49 CFR Parts 392, 393, and 396 of the FMCSRs require pre and post-trip inspections. Drivers must record any vehicle defects and repair them prior to operating the vehicle again.
Controlled Substances/Alcohol category
This BASIC category tracks drug and alcohol violations. Federal regulations 49 CFR Parts 382 and 392 of the FMCSRs stress the importance of sober driving.
Illegal drugs, over-the-counter medications, and prescription medication cause impairment. This is especially true when they’re misused. There are consequences for drivers who get behind the wheel when they’re impaired.
There is no excuse for a failed drug test.
Hazardous Materials Compliance category
Drivers must meet specific qualifications before they can haul hazardous materials. The requirements attached to this BASIC category are 49 CFR Part 397 of the FMCSRs and 49 CFR Parts 171, 172, 173, 177, 178, 179, and 180 of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs).
The number of regulations attests to the danger attached to this job. Consequently, the HM Compliance BASIC includes regulations that require special attention.
They can include:
- How to properly package
- Loading hazardous materials
- Understanding regulations for tank specification testing
- Understanding regulations for loading and unloading
This BASIC category is not public information but motor carriers can access information by logging into their safety profile. HM Compliance data is also available to enforcement personnel.
Driver Fitness category
This category isn’t about committing to getting a membership at the gym. As a matter of fact, the description specifically states: The Driver Fitness BASIC does not consider body mass index (BMI), weight, or neck size.
Driver fitness pertains to record-keeping and the SMS looks at whether or not a driver is keeping it up-to-date. The details are listed in Federal regulation 49 CFR Parts 383 and 391 of the FMCSRs.
Drivers should maintain their qualification files daily and they include:
- Maintaining a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- Medical certificates
- State driving records
- Annual reviews of driving records
- Employment applications
FMCSA established the BASIC categories to monitor the driving performance of those mandated to follow DOT regulations. The rules and regulations are strict because you can’t put a price tag on someone you love.
In short, the DOT wants to make sure it’s keeping our roadways as safe as possible because lives depend on it.