CSA priorities include addressing concerns of small carriers, crash accountability, agency says

| April 22, 2013

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Associate Administrator for Enforcement Bill Quade, speaking at the annual Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Workshop in Louisville, Ky., said the agency will move forward with making the new Hazardous Materials Compliance BASIC (Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Category) public “in November or December” this year. His statements came during a “Life Cycle of a Roadside Inspection Violation” daylong seminar April 22 in which Agency and state law-enforcement representatives, among others, followed violations through their observation during inspection through to their contribution to carriers’ Compliance, Safety, Accountability scores to their effect on subsequent safety investigations, or interventions.

Revamped DataQs website coming as early as Saturday, April 27DataQs website editA new, more-intuitive design for the DataQs website for challenging erroneous violations and crashes assigned to carriers in the CSA SMS could be live as early as Saturday, April 27, said Indiana State Police DataQs coordinator Michael Wilson, during a presentation on the particulars of his work dealing with incoming DataQs requests for review handled by his state. Among the enhancements include a more intuitive user interface, designed to make it much more easy for users to provide the needed informations to make a challenge/request for review. Other new tools there include:

  • New updated notifications and options for searching/reviewing requests.
  • Advanced search capabilities and new filtering tools for carriers with multiple active requests.
  • Type-ahead feature for searching inspection reports that may already be in the system — option to auto-populate data fields with information from the inspection.
  • Type-ahead feature for violations as well – this functionality will help populate the violation description.
  • Ability to add multiple individual requests for review pertaining to a single inspection on one challenge, rather than filing multiple forms.

The Hazmat BASIC measurements and percentile rankings today remain private, Quade said, as a consideration to industry: “We said we’d hold it nonpublic for a year because it was a new measure, to give the industry time to adjust.” 

The BASIC replaced the Cargo Related category in December of 2012, a change made for several reasons, one being the disproportionate representation of flatbed or otherwise open-deck haulers in the old BASIC. It was one among several Safety Measurement System methodology enhancements that were put through proposal and carrier data preview last year, a process FMCSA Transportation Specialist Courtney Stevenson said during the same April 22 seminar the agency would follow with new enhancements being looked at as priorities this year. Of the first order, she said, were possible changes to the public display of information on the CSA SMS website as part of an effort to pursue several goals.

Reinforcing that the SMS is a prioritization tool
Stevenson said the agency wants to reinforce to the public that the percentile-ranking is “not a safety rating,” as well as further “recognize distinctions between BASICs rankings and crash risk.” During a roundtable discussion capping the daylong seminar, several representatives of motor carriers in attendance made note of the business-world implications of the BASIC rankings — and difficulty improving the rankings in spite of very real, measurable carrier improvement in levels of violations. Stevenson said such considerations were high in the mind of the agency as they consider potential display improvements.

Setting the foundation for the SFD
A “Safety Fitness Determination” Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is expected this year, Quade said, Stevenson noting that the distinction between the concept of the primarily displayed relative percentile rankings versus the somewhat buried — in today’s version of the SMS — absolute measurements was an area of prime display consideration. “For a successful NPRM” to tie SMS Results to carriers’ safety ratings, currently still only the result of on-site comprehensive investigations or compliance reviews, downplaying the general-public importance of the percentile rankings could be a “key consideration,” she said.

“We will base the SFD on absolute scores, not relative scores,” said Quade. “When we do an SFD, we will be setting an absolute standard in terms of targeting our field resources” and providing a clear guide to the public on the ultimate safety fitness of motor carriers.

Addressing the concerns of small carriers
“While we do have sufficient data to assess information on the companies involved in 92 percent of the crashes,” said Stevenson, “there’s a sensitivity where some [members of the public] are interpreting a lack of data as crash risk, but that’s not the case.”

It’s a phenomenon often remarked upon by members of the owner-operator and small fleet community, and Stevenson suggested the agency had taken it to heart and was working toward assessing whether appropriately prominent disclaimers or other solutions would be satisfactory to address it.

However, she added, ultimately the agency wanted to “retain the detailed data that’s available that is bumping demand” on the SMS site today. With 45 million total hits yearly today, it’s certainly an active website. For any big display changes, Stevenson said, a carrier data preview could be expected by year’s end. Carriers and drivers would then have the opportunity to comment on any changes. “We have a commitment that we want to be transparent about where we’re headed,” she added. “We want informed comment – this idea of changing the display, it would involve notification and carrier preview…. We plan to host webinars very close to that preview period — when the carrier preview is turned on, look for notification of these webinars” and participate.

Other priorities for 2013 include:

  • Reinforcing FMCSA’s safety mission in the SMS display and potentially integrating Safersys.org and the agency’s Licensing and Insurance public information websites into the SMS site. 
  • Enhancements to the SMS methodology itself, including “comprehensive modifications to the violation severity weights,” said Stevenson, from a 1-10 system to a “low, medium, high” weighting system.
  • Changes to the utilization factor in Unsafe Driving and Crash Indicator BASICs. Today, the agency caps the possible mileage-per-power-unit at 200,000 miles, based on judgments made relative to vehicle-miles-traveled data available prior to CSA implementation.  Now, “our VMT data since we rolled out CSA has improved dramatically,” Stevenson said. “Some of the feedback [we’ve gotten suggests] it is not the proper cap” – 220,000 or 210,000 miles per-power-unit could be more appropriate, she said.
  • Adjustment to safety event groups in all the BASICs. To address the problem of carriers getting higher percentile rankings as the result of a clean inspection — or an old inspection disappearing from the ranking system — moving them into a different safety event group, Stevenson said the agency was considering a more refined approached to the safety event groups in which carriers are compared. “We’re exploring dynamic safety event groups to make more narrow and overlapping” groups, Stevenson said.  
  • Crash weighting. Results of of the long-term study of how to account for crash fault/accountability in the system are expected this summer.
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  • Joshua G

    Well. I would say it is about time the government wake up and realise the big companies cannot carry it all, and their reporting agencies is a flaw. Every bit of it needs to be overhauled with real drivers and operators instead of people whom have never been in a truck much less drove and operated a truck for 2 to 3 weeks away from home at a time or the local drivers fighting city traffic everyday doing the LTL door to door deliveries. I believe we should also have a more active communication and notification system as well of these mettings for our input instead of just webinars, usually just the elite get the invites and thats not fair either. They need more active patrols for cars whom cut trucks off and erract drivers of automobiles as they cause the majority of the wrecks. Trucks don’t stop on a dime !
    Generally, the trucker is blamed though an you hardly see the police stop someone for cutting people off an erratic driving usually they are just hiding or waiting for speeders.
    I wonder if that will be put on the agenda next…
    Mountainman for US Drivers

  • http://www.facebook.com/william.mckelvie William McKelvie

    The usual load of manure about CSA. Imagine that. Favors the big carriers, those with more trucks and trailers than common sense. Ferro and her cohorts still making that crash accountability complication deal. It really is not that hard either you are at fault or you are not. Pretty daggoned simple, just as MR YOUNG said at that congressional hearing, NO ONE else does this, not even the insurance industry, it is just illogical. I could not agree more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrea.sitlerphd Andrea Sitler

    First the government needs to understand trucking. They need to learn that there are many aspects to the industry and that “one size or rule does not fit all”. They have barely scratched the surface on that factor.

    Why cap miles? Why not just use actual miles ran. It is suppose to be reported on the MCS-150 each year. Teams and solos needs separate categories. Vehicle type (eg. flatbed, van, refer, container, tanker) should each be in a sub category by type due to the unique needs and requirements of each equipment type. Just breaking out hazmat or not is not enough of a qualifier. Then let’s look at that MCS-150 again and get some mileage group categories that actually work to create a peer group with the above caveats included.

    Now before this all goes public; like any data base, educate the user. Help them understand what it is they are seeing. If the viewer is going to judge the hauler on these credentials; it is important they are properly maintained and that the viewer understand the rating system. We live in a world where a 100% is tops. In this system, it is just the opposite. This is confusing to most.

    This also reminds me of DAC, PSP or a credit report; the data is not guaranteed accurate but some agency publishes it anyway and it is used to judge the “owner”. The “owner” has little to no control over the information and generally finds it difficult to view their own score, correct inaccuracies (dataQ, come on that needs a fix too) and offer a realistic side. At least on the credit report, you can attach a statement. It is more a feel good than anything but at least you can do something. Here there is no recourse. Yes, maintain your equipment, follow the regs, etc, etc but still if you don’t get inspections you don’t score and if you do and one is not excellent and that is all you have; you fail. So it is a catch 22.

    In conclusion: this system is a work in progress as the gov is beginning to realize. In fairness, it should not be made public until it better understood, properly weighted and the public viewer appropriately educated.

  • No Reform

    Thats a real Hitler System they have in Place….Like DAC…Im surprised they are going to change a thing….they Love to Rip the Drivers OFF every chance they get….Brokers, Cops, Judges, Dispatchers…….

  • No Reform

    truckers today are just guinny pigs for new “Data Mining” companies…..and they are good whippingBoys for anybody
    who is having a bad day and needs to Vent………cops, shipping clerks,brokers, dispatchers, safey bosses………driver gets treated like dirt evryday in every way.

  • No Reform

    You can list your occupation as trucker/FOOL….in an OLD outdated industry filled with dead brained obedient robots/slaveboys for Rich Men.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000251528122 Richard Wilson

    Enhancements to the SMS methodology itself, including “comprehensive modifications to the violation severity weights,” said Stevenson, from a 1-10 system to a “low, medium, high” weighting system.

    How to correct a flawed system by the FMCSA, change the methodology from numbers to words, Expand and confuse those using the numbers to affect the ability for small carriers to expand and retain business. At least with a numbered system based on unaccountable inspections, to a broader definition of status, gives shippers and receivers wider ranges to take business away from smaller carriers and right in the laps and hands of the larger carriers causing the majority of accidents. Instead of rating a form and manner violation on a log or a light out, they ought to have a 8th basic. Driver experience and how it related to crash causation!

  • bigred

    Can anyone not see what is happening here. This whole new chain of events is spelled out in this months edition of “THE TRUCKER.” I`m not sure if the big companies are in on all this and it seems that they aren`t as they are trying to get the new HOS postponed and trying to get the new “restart” stopped.

    The new restart will “under the guise of safety” quote “reduce fatigue, resulting in an average of 12 hours reduction in driving time weekly.”

    Further down it states this will result in creating 16,600 new jobs mostly in the trucking industry <<"quote"

    It`s apparant that this Government wants to put even more unqualified drivers on the road and reduce our hours even more which reduces our wages even more. So, my question is what are these big companies gonna get from this and why are they even playing along.

  • No Reform

    Those Big companies will get subsidies from Gov. no matter which way the “legislation” goes…they want ALL of the good freight for themselves..and to drive small companies out of Trucking…They Big companies LOBBY in Washington DC every day to BRIBE Congressmen..its basically a GAME…but the Little guy always LOSES.

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