Continuing on from Part 1 of this series, we’ll walk through the the seven main ISS groupings.

Carriers are placed into the highest (meaning worst) group for which they qualify, starting at the top.  Let’s examine each group in turn…

RED ZONE. These first four groups are in the red ISS zone, meaning a recommendation to inspect and an ISS score of 75-100 – as high as you can go.

GROUP 1: CARRIERS WITH “SERIOUS VIOLATIONS”
This is it – the worst of the worst from an ISS perspective.  As a motor carrier, you absolutely do not want to be in this ISS group.  So what exactly is a serious violation?  What I think is serious is probably different from what you think it is.  In this case, a “serious violation” is a very specific technical term defined by the FMCSA.

Serious Violations (in a nutshell) – specific single violations or patterns of violations from a pre-set list of 120 violations as determined by a safety inspector during a motor carrier intervention.  A finding of a serious violation places a carrier in alert status for the next 12 months.  To read the FMCSA’s official (and lengthier) definition go HERE.

Taking that apart, we see that to have a “serious violation,” a motor carrier must first have an motor carrier investigation with an official Safety Inspector (SI).  During the investigation, the SI determines if there is either a single serious violation or a pattern of serious violations.  To download a spreadsheet of the FMCSA’s list of specific violations, click HERE.  If the SI determines there is…game over.  The motor carrier will have a serious violation and the corresponding BASIC in alert status for the next 12 months.

Does my carrier have a serious violation?  You can check with Vigillo’s carrier monitoring tool Carrier Select or on the FMCSA’s SMS site.

GROUP 2: HIGH RISK CARRIERS
Again, this sounds like a subjective term where different people could disagree which carriers are high risk.  The FMCSA has a two prong test for high risk carriers:

A High Risk Carrier has:
1) Four or more BASICs in Alert Status OR
2) Two or more BASICs in Alert Status AND Unsafe, Fatigue, or Crash BASIC is >= 85

It seems clear that the FMCSA is increasing scrutiny on three of the BASICs (Unsafe, Fatigue, and Crash) based on this definition.

The next few groups are fairly self-explanatory:

GROUP 3: CARRIERS WITH 2 OR 3 BASICS IN ALERT STATUS

GROUP 4: CARRIERS WITH FATIGUE BASIC IN ALERT STATUS

The two groups above are a good illustration that the FMCSA is fully committed to prioritizing carriers for inspections based on CSA scores.  This also illustrates how the Fatigued Driving / Hours of Service BASIC is the tip of the spear in the FMCSA’s enforcement of CSA.  It is the only single BASIC which cause a carrier to be in the ISS Red Zone as a single BASIC in alert status.  If your carrier is considering EOBRs / electronic logs and you haven’t made the jump yet – this may be another reason to go electronic for logs.

YELLOW ZONE. Carriers in this next set get an inspection recommendation of optional and an ISS score of 50-74.

GROUP 5 –CARRIERS WITH UNSAFE OR CRASH BASIC IN ALERT STATUS

GROUP 6 – CARRIERS WITH ANY OTHER SINGLE BASIC IN ALERT STATUS

As you can see, if a carrier has a single BASIC (other than Fatigued Driving / HOS) in alert status, they will be in the ISS yellow zone and have an ISS score of 50-75.  Understanding this should help safety managers prioritize which BASICs to focus on:  Fatigued driving first, then Unsafe and Crash second, all others third – at least from an ISS perspective. 

GREEN ZONE.  Carriers in this set get an inspection recommendation of pass and an ISS score of 1-49.

GROUP 7 – ALL OTHER CARRIERS WITH SUFFICIENT DATA TO MEASURE

This seems fairly straightforward…at first.  If you are a motor carrier and you don’t fit into any of the categories above – good job, first of all! – that means you are GREEN, right?  Good to go –  you get a pass – no inspection worries for you, right? Not so fast. If you don’t fit into any of the above categories AND you have “sufficient data to measure”…then, and only then, do you get a 1-49 score and a PASS recommendation from ISS.

Well, what does “sufficient data to measure” mean?  So many questions!  For all BASICs, a carrier gets a 0-100 Percentile score if they have sufficient data.  However, if the carrier does not have enough data (for example – too few relevant inspections), then the FMCSA has a completely different scoring system.  It is called the “Insufficient Data Algorithm”  and I’ll talk more about it later in this series.

My carrier fits into one of the groups above – now what?
Now that you know which group your carrier fits into, the next step is to sort all the carriers in the same grouping to calculate your ISS score.  A carrier in a higher group will always get a higher ISS score than a carrier in a lower group. This score can and will likely change month to month. The key is working to get your carrier into the lowest group possible and thereby lower your ISS score commensurately.

Ideally, this information will give you a better grasp on the ISS groupings and give you a bright shining light on the specific levers you need to pull to change your ISS grouping for the better.  I walk through the Insufficient Data Algorithm in Part 3 of this series.  Comments and questions are welcome below.  Thanks!