Calling for changes to CSA

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Though many in the trucking industry support the ultimate goals of the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program rolled out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) four years ago – namely, improving highway safety – its scoring methodology remains a major sore point for large fleets, small carriers, and drivers alike, to the point where major industry trade groups are banding together to yet again call for an revision to the CSA rating process.

For starters, in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) – along with American Bus Association, American Moving and Storage Association, the National Private Truck Council, National School Transportation Association, the National Tank Truck Carriers, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association, Truckload Carriers Association and United Motorcoach Association – called for the removal of CSA scores from public viewing on the FMCSA’s website.

In particular, the groups cite previous research – especially a report issued by the General Accounting Office (GAO) – that highlights what they believe to be major flaws in the program.

“Given the results of this research we urge you to direct FMCSA to remove motor property and passenger carriers’ CSA Safety Measurement System (SMS) scores from public view,” noted ATA President Bill Graves in the letter. “Also, recognizing the merits of raising public awareness of fleets’ true safety performance in the future, we also call on you to direct FMCSA to make CSA improvements a high priority.”

 He added that, given the many identified data sufficiency and reliability issues outlined by the GAO report, removing SMS scores from public view will not only spare motor carriers harm from erroneous scores, but will also reduce the possibility that the marketplace will drive business to potentially risky carriers that are erroneously being painted as more safe.

Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive VP, chimed in by adding that accumulating accurate, relevant and up-to-date safety information is paramount to knowing the true condition of a carrier and in making any conclusions about its safety profile, good or bad.

“Unfortunately, CSA does not meet that standard,” he stressed. “OOIDA has long held the view – backed by outside evaluations – that these [CSA] scores are subject to significant accuracy issues that paint a misleading picture of individual motor carrier safety.”

What are the chances that such changes will be wrought upon CSA? Probably somewhere between slim and none, from where I sit, largely because FMCSA lately has painted trucking in a negative light to a degree in terms of highway safety – an issue touched upon here in a blog post by my colleague Avery Vise, and one of the reasons why OOIDA called for the ouster of FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro back in June (she has since left the agency).

We’ll just have to see how this latest dust-up over CSA pans out.

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