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CSA—Concerns expressed… So what’s happening now?

Jun 05, 2016

So far in this series we’ve discussed what CSA is, how CSA scores are derived, and who’s impacted by CSA and how.This week we discuss concerns expressed about CSA and what’s happening with it now.

CSA Prt 4.jpgConcerns expressed

The flaws in the CSA program are mostly centered on the methodology FMCSA uses to develop the BASICs scores that ultimately impact carriers’ safety ratings. The crash indicator scores are based on all crashes that meet the DOT’s severity threshold, not just those crashes that a carrier caused or could have prevented.   A carrier whose truck is struck while parked, or is rear-ended while sitting at a red light, for instance, still has those accidents included in its crash scores. As a result, those scores don’t accurately reflect the carrier’s (or the drivers’) actual safety. 

Violation weighting is also a concern. Many in the industry feel weights are inappropriately assigned. For example, a truck carrying 1,000 or more pounds of hazmat materials is required to have four placards on it. Failing to have them carries a severity weight of five. But if a truck has all four placards, and one is not horizontal or is dirty, that violation is also considered a five. 

Another issue is that once added to a carrier’s safety history, violations are particularly hard to remove, even if they are out-of-date or incorrect. Trucking companies and drivers continue to be penalized for citations that are dismissed in court.

The availability of all this trucking safety data can, at times, make the industry a sitting duck for frivolous lawsuits. This is especially true when the carrier is not responsible for causing an accident. The plaintiff attorneys may use any data showing a carrier has experienced past violations to cast doubt on their safety records. There may be no actual connection between a driver’s or carrier’s CSA scores and a specific accident and attorneys may try to use those scores against the trucking company anyway attempting to get jurors to view the company as unsafe. 

Some are concerned that the CSA scores and ratings mostly reflect carrier compliance with recordkeeping and paperwork requirements and not actual on-road safety performance. For example, an FMCSA advisory panel member reported that 25 percent of truck crashes are rear-end accidents, and the FMCSA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis found that only seven percent of crashes are fatigue-related. Some carriers are concerned that FMCSA tells them to focus on fatigue and safe driving issues. They want to invest in technology that reduces their crash risk and instead end up having to spend their budget and effort on compliance. 

The trucking industry has identified a number of flaws in FMCSA's calculation of carrier safety performance through the CSA BASICs and perhaps none is more egregious than the inclusion of non-preventable crashes in the Crash Indicator BASIC. 

Lack of crash accountability or crash weighting in CSA has long-plagued the program, at least from a carrier and owner-operator perspective. Carriers’ BASIC rankings can be negatively affected by crashes that are not the fault of the carrier or driver, including the five types of crashes that many in the trucking industry feel should be removed from carriers’ rankings:

(1) Truck collided with animal in roadway,

(2) Other driver hits legally parked truck,

(3) Other driver ran red light or stop sign and hit truck,

(4) Other driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and hit truck,

(5) Truck-assisted suicide by pedestrian.

What’s happening with CSA now?

A provision in the 2015 highway bill forced FMCSA to remove CSA scores from public view, so fleets would not be penalized by shippers, brokers and insurers for the scoring system’s flaws while the agency works to reform the program.

It’s a temporary fix. The scores will stay down until the agency has commissioned a Transportation Research Board study of how accurately the FMCSA system identifies high-risk carriers and predicts future crash risk and severity. This study was commissioned in early March. Within 18 months, the agency must submit a report on that study to Congress and, 120 days later, provide a “corrective action plan” to address any deficiencies determined by the study. Experts expect it will be two years, at best, before CSA is fully restored.

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