The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highway and Transit held a hearing recently to consider changing the current Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program (known as the CSA Program). This program was implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in December of 2010. The program was created to address the need to utilize all data more quickly to focus FMCSA’s limited resources on intervention with high risk carriers in order to prevent truck crashes and the resulting deaths and injuries.
Most safety experts believe this program is a significant improvement over the previous program which it replaced in December of 2010. The intent is for the CSA Program to retain its ability to efficiently analyze data for timely intervention in a cost-effective manner. That’s essential and needed. Lots of folks don’t realize it, but the agency has limited resources, which unfortunately is the case for many good programs. The program must remain fair to crash victims and the surviving families. The FMCSA’s goals toward fulfilling its Congressional mandate are to save lives and prevent injuries by improving the safety of commercial motor vehicles. From the agency’s own evaluation comes the following data:
• The CSA Program is effectively monitoring the industry with an intervention model that demonstrates an overall 35% increase in the number of carriers reached per safety investigation;
• Since the CSA Program roll out in December of 2010 until the end of 2011, violations per roadside inspection declined by 8% and driver violations per inspection declined by 12%;
• Compliance improved while being less intrusive and time consuming for all motor carriers; and
• For an overwhelming majority, 93% of small carriers do not score poorly in the area of the CSA safety management system, supporting the CSA’s programs lack of bias against small carriers.
These results show the most significant improvement in violation rates in the last ten years. The advances achieved with the CSA Program are necessary and long overdue and should not be modified in any manner that would hinder its effectiveness. The FMCSA is considering changing the way the CSA crash BASIC handles crash data. Currently all crashes, regardless of fault, are counted in the crash data. The agency uses this data because past crash history is an accurate predictor of future crash involvement. The change being considered would classify crashes as “preventable,” “non-preventable,” and “undetermined” based solely upon the police accident report “PAR.”
Crashes deemed “non-preventable” would then be removed from the carrier’s crash BASIC score. These changes are not only unnecessary, but have the potential to compromise the data integrity short-term when it is used for intervention and compliance as well as when it is used in long-term studies. The crash BASIC is working as intended; to successfully identify high risk carriers for intervention and the data should not be manipulated.
It’s well-established in the truck research community that crashes – in and of themselves and regardless of fault – are effective predictors of future crashes. Past crashes are indicative of future crash risk irrespective of the finding of “fault” or “preventability” in a particular crash and support the FMCSA’s process of including all crash data.
It is a mischaracterization to say that the process is unfair and that some trucking companies are being blamed for crashes they did not cause. Fault is not, and never has been, part of the FMCSA’s process. The FMCSA’s materials and public display of crash data clearly states the crash data is based on crash involvement without determination of responsibility. The crash data is used solely as an analytical tool to identify motor carriers that can benefit prospectively from intervention by the agency. Additionally with all companies being held to the same standard of inclusion, the playing field is level and fair.
The FMCSA doesn’t have the resources to properly develop and maintain a system which would require investigation, documentation, and evaluation to prove fault and determine preventability in truck crashes. After all, and properly so, that is the function of the civil courts.
Public access to the CSA Program information, data, and improvements is essential to maintaining a fair and transparent process. The information and data the FMCSA collects for its CSA Program come through public agencies, regarding crashes that occur on public roads, paid by taxpayer’s dollars and ultimately affect public health and safety. Perhaps the greatest influence is that the trucking industry and its safety record have high visibility. It should be noted that the trucking industry adds approximately 70,000 new carriers each year. Public access to safety information is essential to obtaining, attaining, and perpetuating safe roadways.
I would hope that Congress preserves the CSA practice of including all crashes
in its crash BASIC because it is an efficient, highly-effective predictor of future truck crashes. In addition, transparency, regarding the methodology and logic behind the threshold settings being employed is essential, as well as insuring public safety in the safety rating information. If you need more information or have questions about any of the above, contact Mike Crow at 800-898-2034 or by email at Mike.Crow@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website
The American Transportation Research Institute website
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure website
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