What is the SMS Report and how does it affect my DOT?

SMS stands for Safety Measurement System.  Its function is to help the FMCSA identify carriers with potential safety issues so that they can intervene and get that carrier back on track before a serious event.  The SMS report is based off BASICs (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories).  Those categories are:  Unsafe Driving, Crash Indicator, HOS Compliance, Vehicle Maintenance, Controlled Substances/Alcohol, Hazmat Compliance and Driver Fitness.

Where does SMS get the information?  Information is obtained through Roadside Inspections, Investigations, State Reported Commercial Vehicle Crash Data, Motor Carrier Census Data (MCS-150 filled out by the carrier or MCS-151 that was filled out by law enforcement).  The SMS analyzes a carrier’s on-road performance by converting the inspection and crash data in the BASIC measures and percentiles.  They are assigned a “Severity Weight” that help differentiate the levels of crash risk with the various violations.  On the Scale, 1 represents the lowest risk while 10 represents the highest risk.    Additional “severity weight” can and will be added for violations that result in an OOS order.   You would see it on the SMS Report as a 10+2 Severity Weight for example.  Each violation is also assigned a “time weight”.  The time weight of an event decreases over time after the violation.  Safety events older than 24 months are no longer used to assess a carriers safety risk in SMS.

After all the above is assessed, the carrier is assigned a percentage.  Intervention happens when a carrier is over 65% for Unsafe Driving/Crash Indicator and HOS Compliance 80% for Vehicle Maintenance, Controlled Substance/Alcohol, Driver Fitness and 80% for HM Compliance.  Remember, the LOWER your Carrier score percent is, THE BETTER.  You do NOT want a high SMS Percentage score.


If you are a carrier that is just getting your Business started, you will often see that your percentage may be higher than you expect.  Why is this?  They do not have sufficient data to give you an informational based score.  Once you have miles reported on your MCS 150 and have a few GOOD inspections done, your percentage should come down provided you do not have any violations.

Why should your SMS score be important to you?  This score is used by Law Enforcement, Customers, and Insurance Providers.  Carriers with good SMS scores will benefit with lower insurance premiums, fewer DOT Audits and Roadside Inspections and a better reputation with customers (both current and future).

It’s always a good idea to check your SMS Report frequently.  Sometimes incorrect information may reflect on the report.   You can repair the incorrect information with a DATAQ request and it’s always a good idea to see where your company stands.


If you have any questions on your SMS Report, FR8 Solutions is here to help you.