The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Safety Management Cycle (SMC) offers motor carriers a framework to identify and address negative safety trends affecting their fleets.

“It’s a self-guided discovery to help you find those important solutions,” P. Sean Garney of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting explained during a recent EROAD webinar about the SMC.

A recording of the webinar is available. Packed with information about the SMC, real-world examples and helpful tips, it’s worth a watch for safety-minded carriers. In the meantime, keep reading for an overview of the SMC and how it works.


What is the Safety Management Cycle?

The SMC was first used by law enforcement to determine why carriers were getting violations and to offer recommendations on how to correct the issues that led to the violations.

“The Safety Management Cycle was created by FMCSA, and it’s now available for use for motor carriers to understand the reasons why they’re having safety challenges,” Garney said. “Often, it’s more than one reason. And, often, it’s not the reasons they necessarily expect.”


Why Should Carriers Use the SMC?

Compliance issues often arise from process breakdowns, Garney said. Using the SMC to identify and address issues early will reduce violation trends and improve Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores and reduce crashes.


How Does the Safety Management Cycle Work?

The Safety Management Cycle has six steps or Safety Management Processes. These include:


Policies and Procedures

Policies are the guidelines for how carriers and their employees behave, and procedures are how those things are accomplished. In this step of the SMC, carriers investigate whether the appropriate policies and procedures are in place.

“You might have a policy that prohibits distracted driving,” Garney said. “Now that you have a policy, you need to create a procedure on how you’re going to eliminate that: What sort of technological tools are you going to develop? Who’s going to be responsible for monitoring those tools? What are the penalties associated with violating this particular policy? Those are your procedures.”

When using the SMC to address a particular problem or trend, carriers should first ask whether they have a policy that addresses the problem. If there is a policy, they need to determine whether procedures are in place to support it.

“I’ve been surprised at the number of times I’ve seen in organizations where there are policies without procedures attached to them. And they’re certainly less effective as a result,” Garney said, adding that polices are also often overlooked.


Roles and Responsibilities

In this step, carriers look to see that employee roles and responsibilities are clearly defined so that each employee knows what they need to do to successfully implement the organization’s policies and procedures.

“It’s absolutely 100 percent key to accountability,” Garney said. “If it’s not specifically spelled out and well communicated, then holding people accountable is going to be very, very difficult.”


Qualification and Hiring

This is a review of hiring processes, such as recruiting and screening applicants, to ensure that they can fulfil the roles and responsibilities that a position requires. Also, carriers should assess whether their current employees have the skills needed to succeed in their positions and whether additional training or reassignment is needed.


Training and Communication

Here, carriers determine whether their employee training and communication are adequate to ensure that everyone understands what is expected of them. This is “arguably the most important element” of the SMC, according to Garney.

“This communication and training portion of the Safety Management Cycle needs to incorporate all of the previous elements: policies and procedures, roles and responsibilities, qualifications and hiring,” he said. “All of this stuff, your staff needs to be trained on and communicated to. And it needs to be cross-departmental and cross-functional.”


Monitoring and Tracking

“Monitoring and tracking is absolutely where the rubber hits the road,” Garney said. “You’ve done all this work already: developed your policies, decided who has to do it, you’ve trained on It, you’ve communicated. Now we have to see if it works.”

Monitoring is looking at the performance of the operation, and tracking is collecting and assessing data that could lead to meaningful action. This includes auditing compliance documentation and HOS records and ongoing monitoring of driver qualifications, among other things.


Meaningful Actions

This step entails developing tools to correct or improve employee behavior, such as additional training and positive reinforcement like rewards or bonuses, to improve a carrier’s overall safety performance.


Watch a recording of the full webinar for much more information – including real-word examples and solutions – on how you can use the Safety Management Cycle to protect your CSA scores and improve the safety of your fleet.

Luke Roney

Content Marketing Specialist
Luke is a writer, editor and journalist with more than 15 years of experience. His goal is to provide valuable content that helps people understand complex concepts, solve problems and make informed decisions.

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