CSA works and is not biased against small carriers, FMCSA report concludes

| February 05, 2014
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As a rebuttal to the oft-cited lack of correlation between CSA’s BASICs and future crash risk, the agency offered this chart, saying that in six out of seven of its BASICs, carriers above the intervention threshold have a higher crash rate than the national average of 3.43. (Click to enlarge).

Coming on the heels of a government-issued report saying the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability system’s scoring method is faulty and unfair for smaller carriers, the agency itself has released a study on CSA and its Safety Measurement System concluding the opposite: The system does work to identify carriers who pose the greatest crash risk, the agency says.

One of the agency’s key conclusions in its report signals SMS scores and their intervention thresholds identify carriers with crash rates 79 percent higher than those not identified for agency intervention.

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CSA scoring is faulty, unfair for small carriers, GAO report says

The scoring system used by FMCSA in its Compliance, Safety, Accountability system is flawed and is made up of an incomplete data set, particularly for small carriers, a GAO report concludes.

The Government Accountability Office, the non-partisan government watchdog, released Monday, Feb. 3, a report that concluded CSA and its SMS scoring were based on a bad or incomplete data set, which yielded flawed and unfair scoring, particularly for smaller carriers, for whom data is limited.

Overdrive actually beat the GAO to the punch last year in its CSA’s Data Trail series, where it pointed out that the CSA scoring method was calculated by poor or an overall lack of data and crash rates didn’t match up with CSA-related intervention. Click here to see the CSA’s Data Trail website.

Though the agency’s report isn’t a direct rebuttal to the GAO report and its findings, it does attempt to make a case that its scoring system is effective in targeting carriers at a higher risk for crash involvement — something the GAO report said CSA was not doing.

The agency says it used an Effectiveness Test to calculate that number by simulating results for carriers based on its own data and then cross-checking that with actual crash involvement.

FMCSA measured its findings based on crashes per 100 power units, and of the 43,000 carriers it identified as above an intervention threshold per SMS scores, 51,763 subsequently were involved in a crash, yielding a crash rate of 4.82 per 100 power units.

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Those carriers not identified — just more than 235,000 — as above the threshold were involved in 54,222 crashes, yielding a crash rate of 2.69 per 100 power units.

The agency also backed up criticism of CSA’s so-called bias against smaller carriers, pointing to their higher rate of crashes as the reason they’re seen as picked on, rather than a flaw in the system that unfairly singles them out.

The crash rate of carriers with fewer than five power units (which make up 75 percent of the companies registered with the DOT), have a crash rate of 3.84 per 100 power units, compared to just 3.51 for carriers with more than 50 power units and 2.98 for carriers with more than 500.

The agency does note it has a limited amount of data on smaller carriers.

“However, many of these small carriers have very little safety information to make a meaningful safety assessment. FMCSA also has limited resources for interventions. For [SMS] to work most effectively in this industry environment, the system must strike a balance of being highly selective with identifying small carriers for interventions (i.e., the group of carriers with the very worst safety problems) relative to large carriers while still holding all carriers accountable,” the study reads.

Carriers above the intervention threshold in more than BASIC have a higher crash rate than the national average, and that rate goes up the more BASIC thresholds passed, FMCSA says. Carriers who are not above an intervention threshold have a lower crash rate, the agency says.

Carriers above the intervention threshold in more than BASIC have a higher crash rate than the national average, and that rate goes up the more BASIC thresholds passed, FMCSA says. Carriers who are not above an intervention threshold have a lower crash rate, the agency says. (Click to enlarge)

FMCSA’s study also makes the point that the agency is more selective in targeting smaller carriers, as just 12 percent of carriers with five or fewer power units have been identified for intervention, relative to their CSA scores, whereas 49 percent of carriers with more than 500 power units have been targeted for intervention and 35 percent of carriers with between 50 and 500 power units have.

That would seem partly due to the sheer amount of small companies there are relative to large companies, as 209,915 carriers have five or fewer power units, according to FMCSA, whereas just 548 have more than 500, but FMCSA chalks up the difference in intervention percentages to greater selectivity by SMS scoring:

“This means that the CSMS is being more selective with identifying smaller-sized carriers for interventions, while also being effective in finding sets of small carriers with high future crashes rates,” the study reads.

The agency also points to data that says for the most part, its BASICs (behavioral analytical and statistical category) correlate with crash risk — and oft-cited point of contention between carriers and CSA.

Its report says that in all but one of the seven BASICs, carriers targeted for intervention have a higher crash rate per 100 power units than the national average of 3.43.

The Unsafe Driving, Crash and HOS Compliance BASICS have the highest correlation with crash rate, as carriers above the intervention threshold in those categories have 93 percent, 85 percent and 83 percent higher crash rates than the national average.

The Vehicle Maintenance BASIC has a lower correlation, 65 percent, while the Controlled Substances/Alcohol and Hazmat Compliance BASIC have 34 percent and 31 percent, respectively, greater crash rates.

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The Driver Fitness BASIC was the only one where carriers above the intervention threshold actually had a lower crash rate than the national average.

Lastly, the agency concluded that the more BASIC thresholds carriers cross, the greater the crash rate. Carriers who are not over the threshold in any BASICs had a crash rate of 2.69 per 100 power units. Those above in one BASIC had a crash rate of 4.26, while those above in two, three to four and five or more BASICS had crash rates of 5.77, 6.24 and 7.17, respectively. “

“In conclusion, these three analyses provide solid evidence that the CSMS as a tool is effectively supporting FMCSA in its mission to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses by improving safety and compliance.,” the study reads.

Click here to see the agency’s report.

Note: This story will be updated as requested responses from trucking groups become available.

  • Drew Anderson

    This from an independent peer review on page 76 of the report:

    Extent to Which the Conclusions Follow the Analysis:
    The conclusions are incredibly limited (one paragraph of the entire report). The authors assert that the analyses “provide solid evidence that the CSMS is effectively supporting FMCSA in its mission to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses by improving safety and compliance.” I do not see that in this study.

  • haller

    Listen as I am only going to type this one time: The greatest CRASH risk is the DRIVER….

  • MercenaryMan

    Cheap suits making up statistics rules and regs to justify a job

  • PattyCakes

    ” CSA works and is not biased ”

    ….. that’s just peachy …. and Bill Clinton never had sex with that women either

  • small company owner

    To the scores of csa: I am a small company, now tell me what percentage of the big companies get their trucks pulled over and get dot? I am one truck last summer pulled for dot , csa score 6 times in 6 weeks, so how about some of the big companies get 100% of their trucks pulled over and checked . It will never happen cause they have the e-logs, no body check cause they figure they are all in compliance all the time. guess again to many are bypassing the system to fit their needs.

  • Barney

    The whole damn DoT is broken. It isn’t about safety, it is about money. Don’t get me wrong, trucks that are unsafe shouldn’t be on the road, But try to get a straight answer out of the dot on almost anything…good luck. They have “a system” that is so cumbersome that even the inspectors don’t know half of the regulations. The DoT is in a tit for tat with the FAA to see who can monitor better the ones behind the wheel or the cockpit better.

  • Stormy

    Trucks are kind of behind the 8 ball on that one. They cancel flights when the weather is bad.

  • Don Woodman

    All I know is that when you challenge certain things that should come off. They have a system that doesn’t work. That’s right it don’t work, because I can’t them off. Bogus points that is.

  • The Captain

    It’s now clear to me that CSA is the big carriers way of getting rid of the smaller carriers. And, of course, the government is happy to help in that process.

  • Riky Von Honaker

    The report is skewed in with the first table. 235,276 carriers not identified in any basic, of those how many are out of business, or not operating.

  • http://maddadkeith.smugmug.com/ Keith Birmingham

    Well now, let’s see, a bank robber is put in charge of investigating himself for bank robbery with the possible punishment of going to prison. The bank robber magically finds himself innocent of all charges. Is that what just happened? Are we supposed to believe this government?

  • Jason Haggard

    Here is an idea. The challenge is being put out to the FMCSA to set aside a date where 500 professional drivers can attend a congressional review of the FMCSA.

    The FMCSA must be required to provide REAL WORLD DATA, nothing concocted in a lab somewhere. The driver will provide testimony about real world situations and we will see how real their science is. At the end of this meeting if the FMCSA and their “statistics” don’t coincide with the facts and real life scenarios brought forward by drivers then a complete investigation of the FMCSA must take place. During said time of this investigation, CSA and the new HOS regulations must be suspended..

    That ladies and gentlemen is a course of action, something that the FMCSA and the politicians in D.C. aren’t willing to to.

  • David S. McQueen

    The holy grail of the government is to make decisions based merely on statistics. Stats may be useful but only if every truck is inspected monthly (an impossible task). When some commercial vehicles are never inspected and some are inspected frequently, the system becomes inherently unfair.

  • norman ott

    If drivers didn’t have to drive 11 hrs with only a 30 min break there would less crashes and more rested drivers. These people must be from a different planet

  • Steve

    Why is it I never see any major carriers in any inspection lanes sitting next to me?

  • Dennis Gray

    I must disagree. I read a report from the FMCSA about drivers who had had strokes. the report concluded that they could find no stats to base findings on. I’m not sure how they pulled that off.

  • http://www.rockinhits.com/ JJ

    9 years left till retirement. Then the CSA can KMA.