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CSAs Distorted Rankings: SMS, safety rating system disconnect compounds problems was intended as an improvement to FMCSA’s SafeStat rating system that used primarily out-of-service violations uncovered during onsite company investigations in determining a carrier’s rating. Given the agency’s small staff relative to the size of the motor carrier population, the system was limited in the number of carriers it could rate, as well as its ability to update those ratings.
Today, SafeStat remains the official rating element of FMCSA’s safety program, using ratings of Satisfactory, Conditional and Unsatisfactory. The CSA SMS runs alongside it, giving more of a real-time window into inspections, violations and crashes.

However, the difference in results produced by each system is marked. In some quarters, eliminating that disconnect is seen as at least a partial solution to public confusion over what the scores mean. It’s a key component of why critics feel use of the scores in business decisions is so onerous.

The discrepancies are likely to remain until a Safety Fitness Determination rulemaking is proposed and completed, which will take years. Slated for proposal late this year, according to recent estimates, the SFD would use roadside inspection violation and crash data to rate carriers with enough data in the system; the grading would not be on a curve and would replace the current SafeStat rating model.

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