The FMCSA’s Safety Management Cycle and the Potential Impact on Motor Carriers

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) may have placed motor carriers in a very difficult situation by touting the Safety Management Cycle (SMC) as the preferred methodology for both identifying and correcting safety and compliance issues.

Rob Moseley, head of Smith Moore Leatherwood’s Transportation Industry Group, said that “a motor carrier adhering to these suggestions may find itself out of business because it spends all of its resources on training seminars and none on moving freight.”

What is the Safety Management Cycle
The FMCSA developed the safety management cycle as a tool to be used by safety investigators to understand “why” certain safety and compliance issues occurred. It consists of six Safety Management Processes:

  1. Policies and procedures
  2. Roles and responsibilities
  3. Qualification and hiring
  4. Training and communication
  5. Monitoring and tracking
  6. Meaningful actions

The process can be applied to all seven of the BASICs (unsafe driving, hours-of-service, driver fitness, controlled substances/alcohol, compliance, vehicle maintenance, hazardous materials compliance, and crash indicator).

How the SMC Would Impact the BASICS

Unsafe Driving Basics
One major area of concern with the FMCSA’s SMC is that it advocates penalizing drivers for speeding even though a citation may not have been written.

In the action section of the document, the FMCSA suggests paying drivers by the hour instead of by load or mileage to eliminate speeding; however, this model would not work for independent contractors.

Hours of Service Basics
The FMCSA states that carriers should have policies that penalize drivers monetarily for hours of service violations. They even state that bus companies should discourage long distance trips planned to depart at night. Managers and dispatchers are encouraged to tell bus drivers to pull off the road and rest.

In the meaningful action section, carriers are advised to provide remedial training to employees who violate the hours of service rules and to discipline carrier officials for allowing these types of violations.

Driver Fitness Basics
In the policies and procedures section, the SMC suggests reviewing driver qualifications twice annually and developing a written and progressive disciplinary policy. While these sound like very good ideas, a personal injury attorney targeting trucking companies specifically will use these to create a standard of care.

If companies use independent contractors then they could be faced with the choice of either deviating from the FMCSA’s SMC or its own business model.

Controlled Substances Basics
Recommendations contained in this section could potentially conflict with a motor carrier’s obligations under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In addition, the FMCSA suggests that carriers encourage employees to disclose personal problems with controlled substances and alcohol within a “safe environment by having an open door policy with management.”

What are the Consequences of Not Complying with the SMC?
While some suggestions may make sense for your company, the SMC is not a regulation. The complete safety management processes are available at

If you would like additional information on the Safety Management Cycle and how it impacts all seven of the BASICs, watch the HireRight Webinar – The FMCSA Safety Management Cycle presented by Rob Moseley, attorney with Smith Moore Leatherwood.



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