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CSA criticized at House hearing

| September 14, 2012

For the second time in a month, House members and witnesses blasted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.

At least 15 members of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit committee attended the Sept. 13 hearing on the program, intended to intervene with unsafe carriers in order to prevent future crashes. Bipartisan representatives said since CSA’s implementation nearly two years ago, some studies and stakeholders have questioned its effectiveness.

CSA rates interstate carriers on seven BASICs (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories). On Aug. 24, the agency announced changes to improve CSA’s measure of a carrier’s over-the-road safety performance. That included modifying the Fatigued Driving BASIC to the more specific Hours-of-Service Compliance BASIC to better reflect violations in this area and weighting hours of service paper and electronic logbook violations equally. Also, late last month, FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee established a subcommittee to make suggestions for improving the program.

Lawsuits against shippers have increased following a 2004 case that expanded duty of reasonable care regarding contractors, resulting in shippers weighing CSA data seriously.

Chairman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) and other House members and witnesses expressed concern over methodology and accuracy. Democrat Reps. Nick Rahall (W.Va.) and Leonard Boswell (Iowa) expressed concerns voiced by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association that CSA lacks a way for a carrier to have any ranking at all until a violation is cited in inspection. This lack of a ranking can be because of lack of exposure or having only perfect clean inspections, but it means they are overlooked by brokers or shippers.

Rep. Don Young (R-Ala.) requested an Government Accountability Office report on CSA.

On Aug. 31, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) sent a letter to FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro on issues raised at the House Small Business Committe’s July 11 hearing on CSA. Graves, also a member of the highway and transit subcommittee, questioned data quality and SMS methodology itself particularly in relation to smaller carriers.

Graves and other members and witnesses noted the Wells Fargo Securitas study, which did not find a correlation between certain high BASIC scores and increased crash risk and similar results from a University of Maryland study. Wells Fargo has a new study of 4,600 carriers that echoed the results of its early study, he wrote.

Ferro defended the system and said the two previous studies were on too small of a sample to draw conclusions.

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