How Can I Improve My SMS and SAFER Scores?

In our last blog post we talked a bit about SMS and SAFER scores. This month we’d like to take a deeper look at these scores and find ways to improve them. How can you reduce your scores? By better understanding your scores and taking a few simple precautions you can improve your ratings. At Western Truck Insurance Services we love helping you save money on your insurance and great safety scores might just save you a bundle.

Tips for Improving Your Scores

We want you to “Travel with Care” and a big part of this is safety. While improving your scores might help you save money on insurance, more importantly it will help you to become a safer driver, helping you to make home after those long hauls and ensuring that the roads are safe for all of us. Here are some tips for improving your scores and becoming a safer driver.

·         Buckle Up– With long hours on the road it is tempting to leave that seatbelt unbuckled, but this is one easy way to protect yourself. Buckle up as soon as you get into the truck. Make it a habit.

·         Hang Up– Cell phone violations are a big deal. Make a commitment to not use your phone while driving. Instead focus on the road. You can check your text messages and make important phone calls when you come to your next stop.

·         Inspect Yourself– Don’t wait for violations to be discovered at an inspection; inspect yourself. Periodically give yourself a mental inspection and see how you’d do. Are you log books up to date? Is your truck in good repair? Are you speeding? Finding your potential problems before an inspection will give you time to make the needed adjustments and become a safer driver.

·         Check Your Data– When was the last time you used DataQs to check your safety data? Just like you should regularly check your credit score, you should check your safety scores for errors too. If you find any inaccurate information, get it checked and amended.

·         Educate Yourself– Even the safest drivers can use a little reminder now and then. The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) has created an online resource that commercial drivers can use to improve safety practices. Common driving errors are discussed with tips for improvement. Short video clips are available to further teach and train. This is a great resource for any commercial driver.

·         Make Safety a Priority– Inspections might catch violations, but if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do these violations will be few and far between. Focus on safety, not on your scores. When you institute safe driving practices the scores will follow. Safety should be your first priority. It’s more important than getting a load to its destination on time or squeezing in a few extra miles in the day.

What are you going to do to improve your safety ratings? We encourage each driver to take a few minutes and renew their commitment to driving safely. SMS and SAFER scores might help you to remember the importance of safety, but even without these scores we want you to get there safe.

 

SMS and SAFER Scores: An Introduction

The importance of safety in trucking can’t be overstated. Your life and the lives of others depend on your ability to safely get from Point A to Point B or anywhere else you may travel. Safety records, like your SMS or SAFER scores, help measure adherence to important safety practices. These scores provide an important snapshot into your safety record and can have a big impact on your insurance rates.

SMS vs. SAFER

SMS stands for Safety Measurement System. It is an on-road safety and performance measurement system utilized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The system was designed to change and adapt as new technologies and measurement guides are established. It is updated regularly (keep updated about any changes by checking the FMCSA website). Check SMS reports here.

SAFER stands for Safety and Fitness Electronic Records and is a system that provides safety information to both the trucking industry and the public online. You can search company safety snapshots free of charge using a company name, DOT number or MC number. Snapshots provide basic information about inspections, violations and crashes. More detailed information is available for a free by requesting a SAFER company profile.

How Are Scores Determined?

Both SMS and SAFER measure and report safety violations, but they do so a little differently. For example you are able to access a great deal of information about motor carriers and their violations for free using the SMS search option. You can find out not only how many violations are on a record, but also the specifics of these violations. SMS rates violations by severity. A parking violation might carry a weight of one while a more serious violation like inadequate brakes will be more serious. On the other hand SAFER only provides basic information in its free carrier snapshots.

Any time a violation is reported it leaves a negative mark on your record that can be seen by potential clients, employers, insurers, etc. Safer drivers are more appealing and a smaller risk and in turn will typically receive lower rates on insurance. Too many violations can result in penalties, fines and investigations.

SMS reports include information in a variety of BASIC categories including:

·         Unsafe Driving

·         Hours of Service Compliance

·         Driver Fitness

·         Controlled Substances and Alcohol

·         Vehicle Maintenance

·         Hazardous Materials Compliance

·         Crashes

How to Check Your Score

Knowing what your reports look like is essential to protecting your safety reputation. Motor carriers should regularly check their reports for accuracy. Keeping safety on your mind and striving to have a clean safety record will help you to improve your driving and possibly even lower your insurance rates. You can check your scores online from the FMCSA website. Check SAFER reports here and SMS reports here.

Correcting Errors

As you check your reports look for errors. The SMS results are based on state reported crash and inspection data. If you find an error you can report it using a portal known as DataQs. You can report errors or concerns for investigation.

Here at Western Truck Insurance Services we want you to Travel with Care and that means driving safely. Not only will safe driving help you save money on your insurance, it will also help you to make it home safely after a long journey on the road. Keep checking back and future posts will teach you some tips for improving your safety scores.