DOT Advisory Committee Considers Changes To CSA

The Department Of Transportation’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) has established a new subcommittee to consider changes to the agency’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program for commercial trucks and buses. The subcommittee is tasked with developing suggestions on how the CSA Program could be more effective as a tool for identifying unsafe companies. The MSCAC may then forward any recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for inclusion in any future revisions to CSA.

The subcommittee’s deliberations come at a time when CSA is being challenged in a number of forums. There are concerns that the CSA scores do not necessarily correlate to future crash risk, although shippers, insurers and courts may use the data to infer such a connection.

Witnesses at a recent Congressional hearing discussed the shortcomings of the CSA data and the conclusions that may be derived from the BASIC scores. In addition, several trucking companies and brokers have filed suit in federal court to challenge the publication and use of flawed data. In addition, the American Trucking Associations has published a fact sheet responding to and adding context for some of the FMCSA’s claims of CSA’s benefits, and Congressional leaders have asked the DOT Inspector General’s Office to open an investigation into the data and methodology of CSA.

The CSA subcommittee set out a plan to assess the shortcomings of CSA. At its most recent meeting, the subcommittee focused on the data that is collected and the methodology for how carriers are evaluated. The subcommittee heard an all-day panel presentation from a number of researchers who have reviewed the current CSA data and methodology and assessed the relationship of carrier scores to carrier future crash risk. Invited presentersincluded Wells Fargo, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the Volpe Center, and the American Transportation Research Institute.

The presentations addressed recent findings that although some BASICs (e.g., Unsafe Driving, Hours of Service, Vehicle Maintenance) have a strong correlation to future crash risk, but other BASICs (Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances) have a negative correlation to future crash risk. This means that the worse a carrier’s score in those two BASICs, the less likely it is that the carrier will be involved in a future crash.

At the February 5, 2013 meeting, the subcommittee will discuss the focus, priorities, objectives and goals of CSA, how to ensure that the data are related solely to safety and crash risk, regional disparities between carrier evaluations, and the definition of a crash. There will be presentations on the factors used by insurance companies to evaluate motor carriers for risk, and investigations of crashes to determine causation and fault.

Longer term objectives include an evaluation of the CSA intervention thresholds for varying types of carriers, the DataQ process to contest violations, and the impact of court dismissals on violations in CSA.

The FMCSA has already announced a package of revisions to CSA that went into effect in December 2012. These include a new BASIC specific to Hazardous Materials transportation, moving the cargo violations to the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, and eliminating speeding violations for 1-5 mph over the legal limit.

The FMCSA is also considering a number of longer-term changes to CSA, including:

  • Simplifying the severity weights given to roadside violations (e.g., instead of using a weighting of 1-10, using a low/medium/high standard)
  • Using vehicles miles traveled rather than number of power units to normalize crash and violation data
  • Revising the grouping of carriers for evaluation purposes by the number of inspections or safety events
  • Weighting crashes based on preventability (the FMCSA’s analysis on crash weighting will be completed in the summer of 2013).

With regard to crash weighting, the FMCSA is questioning whether current police accident reports are consistent and reliable enough to use in evaluating preventability. The agency also is asking whether crash weighting is a stronger predictor of future crash risk than merely involvement in a crash regardless of fault.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
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GAWDA’s Government Affairs & Human Resources Legal Consultant Richard P. Schweitzer, Esq., is president of Richard P. Schweitzer, PLLC in Washington, D.C. Members can reach him at 202-223-3040 and rpschweitzer@rpslegal.com

Gases and Welding Distributors Association