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PRISM Benefits


PRISM demonstrates the following safety, economic and productivity benefits


Identification of the motor carrier (via their United State Department of Transportation [USDOT] number) responsible for the safe operation of the vehicles being registered has produced a major safety benefit. It helps ensure motor carriers that have been ordered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to cease interstate operations do not continue to maintain interstate license plates. In addition, safety events (e.g. inspection, accident, driver moving violations) affecting a PRISM registered vehicle can be more accurately tied back to the responsible motor carrier.

Performance-Based Approach to Safety Management

The primary means for identifying potentially poor performing carriers is through an accumulation of carrier, vehicle and driver-specific safety events that is then linked to the carrier through the carrier's USDOT number. Carriers are identified, treated and released from a safety improvement program based upon demonstrated highway performance after safety treatments have been applied.

Improved Productivity

The PRISM program was developed to help the FMCSA, with limited safety resources, meet the challenge of reducing the number of commercial vehicle crashes of a rapidly expanding interstate carrier population. The PRISM program has increased the efficiency and effectiveness of Federal and State safety efforts through:

  • Efficient allocation of scarce resources through more accurate targeting of compliance reviews to focus on the highest-risk carriers, and,
  • The use of a warning letter as an effective, inexpensive method for carriers with less severe safety problems.

Improved Data Quality

The PRISM program has shown that an improvement in the accuracy and timeliness of data results in better resource allocation and heightened efficiencies in the administration of major Federal and State safety programs. Several of the most notable data improvement initiatives are listed below:

  • Development of a procedure for obtaining current census and operational data on interstate motor carriers as part of the State's annual vehicle registration renewal process;
  • Development of a procedure for using plate numbers as a means to more effectively assign inspection and accident data to the responsible motor carrier;
  • Use of automated procedures for data collection in the field to eliminate typing errors on critical fields on accident and inspection reports, like USDOT number, plate number and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). An example of effective automated procedures is the bar coding of motor carrier identifying information on cab cards and the use of bar code readers with lap-top computers to read the bar coded information and automatically enter the data on inspection and crash reports.

Improved Motor Carrier Safety

The PRISM program requires that motor carriers improve their identified safety deficiencies or face progressively more stringent sanctions up to a Federal out-of-service order and concurrent State registration suspensions. For carriers with less severe safety problems, the PRISM program pioneered the use of a warning letter as an alternative to an on-site review. The warning letter has proven to be an extremely effective and inexpensive means of improving safety performance.

In the pilot, thirty percent of the carriers that received warning letters improved. Currently, over 70% of the carriers that have received warning letters have improved. Thirty percent of the at risk carriers also improved after the first compliance review and those carriers identified by Motor Carrier Safety Status Measurement System (SafeStat) were nearly three times as likely to be involved in accidents. These are the carriers that are targeted for the improvement process. Registration officials checked the safety fitness before issuing plates and suspended registration to improve performance-based approach.

With the release of the CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) program in 2010, the SafeStat scoring methodology was replaced by the Safety Measurement System (SMS), and the PRISM Warning Letter was replaced with the CSA Warning Letter.

Customer Service

PRISM provides a one-stop shopping opportunity for carriers to obtain a USDOT number, meet Congressionally mandated data update requirements, and get their International Registration Plan (IRP) license plates simultaneously. Through the PRISM program, the State registration offices can issue USDOT numbers on behalf of the Federal government.

Updated: Wednesday, June 3, 2015
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