ARLINGTON, Va. — Industry associations in the US are once again calling for changes to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program.
Scott Mugno, vice-president of safety for FedEx Ground Package System, offered his thoughts on behalf of the American Trucking Associations in testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
“ATA has been supportive of the objective of CSA, to reduce commercial motor vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities, since the program’s inception. However, ATA has significant concerns with the program in its current form,” he said.
Mugno cited issues in data weakness that prevent FMCSA from having enough information to properly evaluate carriers, as well as methodology issues that count all crashes – regardless of preventability – against a carrier, as among the most significant issues with CSA.
While ATA officials note that the group continues to support CSA’s stated goal, Mugno said FMCSA needed to take several steps to fix the program.
“First, FMCSA must acknowledge that CSA scores are often not a reliable predictor of future crash risk. Second, the agency must confirm that CSA’s highest priority should be to focus on the least safe carriers. And finally,” he said, “FMCSA must establish a specific plan to develop and implement the changes necessary to ensure that the system functions as intended.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) also provided comments to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, saying CSA’s rating system opens doors for unwanted competition and safety issues.
“Instead of having all motor carriers strive for a perfect safety rating, this system has them all competing with each other for the highest ranking within peer groups. This belies the idea that the system’s objective is really about safety,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice-president of OOIDA.
In the past, OOIDA has contended that the CSA scoring system is “prejudicial, arbitrary and disproportionately punishes small businesses,” noting “the system does not have a way for a carrier to have any ranking at all until a violation is cited by way of an inspection.
“This lack of a ranking for smaller carriers due to lack of exposure, or inspections, or simply by having only perfect clean inspections means they are overlooked by brokers or shippers, even if a particular carrier is actually a safe operator with a perfect safety record,” officials said in a release.
“A carrier is only as good as the next guy and in order to succeed, you must first fail – only fail less than everyone else in the same safety grouping,” said Spencer. “Because 90% of trucking is made up of small businesses, then this has serious implications on truly knowing who is a safe carrier.”
OOIDA also said the public availability of scores “contradicts the self-help objective of the program, again begging the question whether safety is the priority,” with carriers meant to make improvements to their operations based on scores.
“FMCSA needs to show their program actually can identify carriers that are really unsafe as opposed to just running up numbers on the ‘alphabet soup’ of regulations they have on their books. The system operates from the premise that every trucker is the bad guy and this is a flawed approach for creating legitimate safety statistics or improving safety,” Spencer said.
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