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  • FMCSA, in a nutshell

  • What is FMCSA SAFER and who uses it?

  • What is SaferWatch™ and who is it for?

What is the FMCSA?

In 1999, Congress passed the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act. Among other things, this act created the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as a separate administration operating within the U.S. Department of Transportation. Since 2000, the FMCSA has been the agency responsible for regulating and providing oversight in transportation in order to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) like trucks and buses. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the FMCSA has over 1,000 employees located throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The FMCSA works directly with transportation and government professionals to help keep our roadways safe for everyone. They also work to improve commercial vehicle safety through regulation, education, enforcement, research, and technology. According to their website, “the FMCSA:

  • Develops and enforces data-driven regulations that balance motor carrier (truck and bus companies) safety with efficiency;
  • Harnesses safety information systems to focus on higher risk carriers in enforcing the safety regulations;
  • Targets educational messages to carriers, commercial drivers, and the public; and
  • Partners with stakeholders including Federal, State, and local enforcement agencies, the motor carrier industry, safety groups, and organized labor on efforts to reduce bus and truck-related crashes.”

One of the significant ways the FMCSA is working to fulfill their mission is through the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) System.

What is FMCSA SAFER?

SAFER is a website maintained by the FMCSA that provides safety data on motor carriers. The safety data is collected using existing government databases and can be accessed by those in the transportation industry as well as the general public.

The FMCSA SAFER database can be searched using a company name, DOT Number, or MC Number for a Company Snapshot. The Company Snapshot provides “a company’s identification, size, commodity information, and safety record, including the safety rating (if any), a roadside out-of-service inspection summary, and crash information” for free. Data is updated daily with the exception of inspection and crash counts which are updated every week.

The FMCSA SAFER portal can also be used to register for a USDOT number, pay applicable fines, order company safety profiles, access printable forms, and much more.

Who uses SAFER?

SAFER can be accessed by anyone, but it’s regularly used by professionals in the transportation industry, including law enforcement.

Being compliant with state and federal regulations is an important part of freight management. Brokers and shippers working with new companies to move freight will often access SAFER to help vet carriers and make sure they’re contracting with a reputable company. Being able to access a company’s official contact and identification information along with safety rating is a huge help in mitigating risk for everyone involved.

Accessing a Company Snapshot through SAFER isn’t the only thing brokers and shippers do to limit risk when working with carriers. They also need to collect a Certificate of Insurance, check operating authority from the Licensing and Insurance division of FMCSA, review carrier notes (if they’re available), and more. SAFER is great for delivering the most urgently required safety data on carriers, however it doesn’t eliminate the time and energy spent in accumulating the other materials needed to fully vet carriers – specifically, the data that brings more accountability and security to a broker’s business that are a part of the transportation industry’s best practices.

There are additional resources available that collect and aggregate all this data, while also providing a more well-rounded snapshot of potential business partners in a clear, easy-to-read format. SaferWatch is one such example that is commonly used by brokers to ease the headache of onboarding a new company or carrier.

What is SaferWatch™?

SaferWatch™ is an advanced, motor carrier risk management service that instantly delivers up-to-date FMCSA and 3rd  party data to transportation professionals. It provides its users with current and relevant carrier information quickly and accurately to help eliminate the endless paper trails and cumbersome processes that can slow down the movement of freight.

With SaferWatch™, users can avoid hiring negligent carriers through a comprehensive safety and review process that’s done automatically. Companies can expand their network by finding the right carriers quickly using advanced, intelligent search features. SaferWatch™ also has the largest database of carrier Certificates of Insurance which are accessible with a single, flat subscription rate.

By creating better efficiencies and time management, SaferWatch™ helps businesses save time, and that means more money can be put toward growth and development.

How does SaferWatch™ work?

Not only does SaferWatch™ access the databases created by the FMCSA and DOT, it actually provides all the tools and information needed to onboard a company or carrier. It does all this in a single location helping companies maintain an efficient and risk-free business. SaferWatch™ does this in several ways, a few of which are listed below.

Certificates of Insurance are a standard part of operating procedure and best practice as they endorse a level of trust in the company or carrier being contracted with. Brokers know that accessing Certificates of Insurance for carriers can be a slow and tedious process – especially when a load is sitting at a dock waiting for pick up. SaferWatch™ offers an extensive database of Certificates of Insurance. If a certificate isn’t in the SaferWatch™ database, certificates not on file will be acquired and made available within the hour.

Monitoring the ever-growing volume of carriers a brokerage might contract with can be overwhelming. Yet making sure your preferred carriers are maintaining safety and compliance regulations is a necessary task. SaferWatch™ makes sure that safety ratings, compliance issues, and Certificates of Insurance are updated automatically so brokers can go right to their preferred carriers.

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores once provided to the public through the FMCSA are approximated by SaferWatch™ through CSA-e scores. The FMCSA published their Safety Measurement System methodology which when combined with public FMCSA data and additional programmatic details provide the components necessary to recreate a comparable to the CSA scores once provided by the FMCSA. (Read more about CSA scores)

Anything a broker needs can be found using the SaferWatch™ system, and everything is provided in an easy-to-read analysis. Brokers don’t have to be hampered by the time-consuming, cumbersome details required for onboarding a new company or carrier, nor are they bothered with the continued monitoring required in freight transportation. Considering how important managing risk is in this industry, the benefits an application like SaferWatch™ provides is worth every penny.