Federal Update
Coalition calls for FMCSA to pull CSA scores from public view

By Jami Jones, managing editor

A coalition of 10 industry groups is calling on Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to direct FMCSA to pull the plug on publicly viewable CSA safety ratings.

The coalition is made up of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association; American Trucking Associations; American Bus Association; American Moving and Storage Association; National Private Truck Council; National School Transportation Association; National Tank Truck Carriers; Specialized Carriers and Rigging; Truckload Carriers Association; and the United Motor Coach Association.

The groups sent a letter to Foxx in August seeking removal of motor carrier scores from public view via Compliance, Safety, Accountability’s Safety Measurement System, or SMS. The coalition contends that removing the scores from public view will spare motor carriers from erroneous scores and will also prevent the public from being lulled into a false sense of security that they are hiring a safe motor carrier.

The justification behind the request from the group is a report issued by the Government Accountability Office earlier this year.

The GAO reported on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability regulatory compliance measurement program. And the review was anything but glowing.

The coalition highlights the GAO’s core criticism of the CSA program: It doesn’t serve its sole purpose to identify at-risk motor carriers.

Currently, the FMCSA collects violation data on 750 different regulations. The GAO analysis of that data determined that 593 of those regulations were violated by fewer than 1 percent of the carriers.

The GAO further drilled down and found 13 of the regulations for which violations consistently had some association with crash risk in at least half the tests conducted. There are only two violations – failing to wear a seatbelt and speeding – that had sufficient data to consistently establish a substantial and statistically reliable relationship with crash risk across all of the GAO tests.

“FMCSA has not demonstrated relationships between groups of violations and the risk that an individual motor carrier will crash,” the GAO report states.

Because of the potential for misrepresentation of a motor carrier’s crash risk – even in some cases misrepresenting them as being safer than they really are – the coalition is calling for removal of the scores from public view.

“We anticipate that FMCSA will contend, as it has done in the past, that other research shows that carriers with high scores in some categories are more likely to be involved in a future crash,” the coalition’s letter states.

“Though accurate safety measurement scores can have numerous positive impacts, as discussed above, inaccurate scores, like those assigned to carriers by the CSA SMS, have detrimental and counter-productive consequences.

“Given the many identified data sufficiency and reliability issues outlined by the Government Accountability Office, we urge you to direct FMCSA to remove carriers’ SMS scores from public view. Doing so will not only spare motor carriers harm from erroneous scores, but also reduce the possibility that the marketplace will drive business to potentially risky carriers that are erroneously being painted as more safe.”

In a response from FMCSA, the agency defended the program and even criticized GAO’s assessment of the program.

“The Safety Measurement System has been a game changer in improving safety by making company violations and safety records publicly available to consumers, law enforcement and other businesses,” the agency stated.

“The GAO’s one-size-fits-all approach to analyzing inspection data would require the agency to triple the number of inspections we finance each year to exceed more than 10 million nationwide, which is simply unrealistic under our budget, and would fail to assess the behavior of more than 90 percent of the entire motor carrier population.

“Our research shows that by focusing on the most at-risk carriers, we effectively remove the companies most often involved in crashes from the road. We continue to work with all partners to ensure an efficient, transparent system to provide safer transportation for everyone on the road.” LL