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Todd Dills

GAO CSA report fallout: More small-carrier inspections on the way?

| February 13, 2014

The Government Accountability Office report on CSA, released two weeks ago, was a subject of considerable attention during morning presentations yesterday to the MCSAC’s CSA Subcommittee, with FMCSA’s Joe Delorenzo presenting what he believed were fundamental flaws with the GAO’s approach in the alternative methodology it proposed. Delorenzo said the approach “makes the assumption that because you didn’t have a crash you don’t have crash risk” and, if utilized, would put the agency “in a position where we’re regulating only large carriers.”

In its alternative, the GAO picked a baseline for rating a carrier at a minimum of 20 inspections for reliability. The reasoning behind that is basic statistics — more observations = better, more reliable measures.

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In CSA today, as few as five relevant inspections in many of the BASIC categories of measurement over the course of a two-year period is sufficient to generate a score — and a wildly fluctuating, often high score for many of the smallest entities unlucky enough to get a couple hits with any violation whatsoever, as we’ve reported. GAO’s look at CSA concludes that the low number of inspections in the very-small-fleet realm makes the system’s rankings of those carriers unreliable at best, as I read it.

But FMCSA focused much of the morning yesterday defending the program by explaining differences in philosophy — they look at patterns of violations while GAO was focused on individual violations, for example — and reiterating study results that show carriers with BASIC percentile ranking above their intervention thresholds, marked by the “golden triangle” alert symbol, account for 90 percent of crashes.  

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By some measures, the GAO report does validate that a data-driven system such as CSA would be in fact an effective system for assessing crash risk on entities that have a high level of inspections in the system, and some subcommittee members were comfortable in such a belief. 

Rudy Supina, of bus company DATTCO, started off a discussion about potential additions to a CSA-related item (a regulations review introduced by OOIDA’s Todd Spencer and discussed in this story)  in MCSAC’s prioritized list of highway bill recommendations (discussed Mon.-Tues.) by urging FMCSA to consider alternative sources of data to beef up the system underpinning CSA scores: “In order for CSA to succeed, we have to feed the system. Where the data is accurate and clean we see that it does work.” He referred to California’s “annual [compliance review],” he said, and the potential of using that data, suggesting other states may have similar programs that could feed data into the federal system.  

Then the talk turned toward inspections. Subcommittee member Bruce Hamilton, of the Amalgamated Transit Union, suggested advocating for more federal money coming into the states to increase the number of inspectors working the roadside and scale houses. “It looks like the GAO report gives the agency the argument to go to Congress for more money for more inspections,” he said. 

“We’d love to have more data,” said Delorenzo in his presentation, “but our perspective is to be more proactive — we don’t need to wait for 20 inspections” over a two-year period to establish the need for an intervention. 

Quade pointed to the prioritized recommendations issued by the full MCSAC the day prior. There was an item there to reduce state matching requirements relative to funds coming in from the federal Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program grants. “If we doubled the size of the program” to go after a goal of doubling the number of inspections nationwide, Quade said, “each state has to double the size of their match…. Most states won’t have the wherewithal to double the size of their match.”

The recommendation to reduce state Basic MCSAP matching funds via the next highway bill was to reduce it by half, from 20 percent to 10 percent.      

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Ultimately, said Supina, “money for more inspections across the board is absolutely not what I meant,” adding that he couldn’t get behind more funding for “more inspections to inspect me, in addition to all the times I’m already inspected.” 

Joe Rajkovacz of the California Construction Trucking Association feared such reaction to the GAO report on CSA. In a back-and-forth I had with him on OverdriveOnline.com here under a brief Overdrive Extra post about a few ways GAO’s criticisms of CSA reflected Overdrive in-depth reporting on the program from last year, Rajkovacz had this warning about reading a whole lot of positive news into it: “The GAO findings, while supportive of ‘some’ failings in the system, are also troubling because they also focused in on the lack of sufficient data on smaller carriers. Lack of data means: not enough inspections.” 

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Reprioritizing inspection criteria to grab and tie up more and more of the “little guys” among carriers on the road might be the onerous result.

At once, as we’ve also shown, there’s a four-fold greater inspection count per truck in the DOT’s own inspection data, when analyzed in the for-hire population, for independent owner-operators versus 500-plus-truck fleets. And as I noted Monday, it’s common practice in the Inspection Selection System to periodically “re-prioritize” carriers for inspection if they have no roadside data in the system. 

In that sense, re-prioritization toward the small carrier is happening today. What are you seeing out there on the road? Drop a comment here. 

  • Jason Haggard

    So 20 inspections are needed for a small carrier and a large carrier, talk about crooked. Carriers with 2,000+ trucks will be considered satisfactory if they have 20 passed inspections and carriers with 5 trucks get treated the same. Another fine example of the FMCSA intentionally trying to find ways to put independents out of business.

  • Steve

    It should go by a percentage of the fleet. Not a flat 20 inspections per company. In some cases that could have the same truck inspected 20 times to receive a score, while another fleet with 20 inspections would be less than 1% of the entire fleet.

  • Jason Haggard

    Yeah but common sense would be too easy to use and wouldn’t work against smaller fleets then. They want to weed them out so the big guys can dominate everything.

  • Steve

    why is it that I was inspected 4 times last year and the only 1 that showed up was the 1 inspection with a scuffed tire. yes the only 1 to show up was the 1 that gave me points. None of the ones I passed with flying colors ever did show up.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    Hell i had two inspections in 150 miles in Texas !

  • Eddie Smith

    Of course Jason. The major carriers can buy off the politicians you and i can’t.

  • MercenaryMan

    ” a scuffed tire” Ill bet all the cars the FMCSA drive and there kids have tires that are scuffed….ridiculous

  • MercenaryMan

    Random testing is the only way you include everyone, random testing, every third truck, every tenth truck….white trucks, red trucks, random…..I was inspected 6 times in a three month stretch, never had any Issue, perfect inspections, paper logs perfect, EVERY TIME…Wasted time as I see rigs with REAL issues such as Improperly secured freight, Bald tires etc…But they want to pick on a single truck or several truck operation because were Fat, Oh were dangerous, oh were all driving hopped up on Dr Pepper…..ridiculous, WHO makes up this garbage….Random inspections catch the bad guys, targeting ME, you catch NO ONE…

  • MercenaryMan

    Im thinking Class Action lawsuit against this stupidity…

  • William McKelvie

    More HOT AIR and leave the big carriers alone. Where’s the lawyer that will pick up all of the smaller carriers to sue the FMCSA for PROFILING. Hmmm?? Who is the lawyer that has the cojones to do this?? Sure sounds like DISCRIMINATION and PROFILING to me!!!

  • haller

    I truly believe a nation wide shutdown is at hand and the Independent Truckers must know the reasons.. This is WAR… SHUTDOWN for ONE MONTH, nothing less..

  • haller

    Jimmy Hoffa…. OOIDA doesn’t have the balls….

  • Laz

    I only see we need to get together and give them enough of this shit Im thinking an out of this industry that with love & pride i have done it for 20 years if this doesn’t get any better sooner before i take a foot out the line..

  • Mike Smith

    It is the big boxes that hire & put to work, the incompetents. They are the one’s that must be focused on. OO have experience. This whole shit stinks to high heaven & OOIDA gives us lip service.

  • LAZ

    Speak up loud and you’re see what you get alone , But without US they sure are ALONE. It take’s a Team of us to push this right up there ASS so they can FEEL THIS.. NO ONE BUT US MUST RESOLVE THIS ISSUE.

  • Mike Smith

    U will be doing just what they want. They want incompetents to be driving for the big boxes at 55 mph, & for 25 cents a mile. All we can do is fight to try & save the only real jobs left in our country.

  • Laz

    I couldn’t agree more on this..

  • Laz

    How long ago was it that they started doing all this bullshit games we come to see NOW? any one know

  • Mike Smith

    In the late 1980’s about the time Reagan signed AMNASTY. Get the connection??????

  • LAZ

    Since then we come to REALIZE now what they are after US for, where were WE???
    WHAT CAN WE DO NOW?? I KNOW IS NEVER TO LATE TO GET IT DONE!

  • LAZ

    WE NEED TO STOP DEPENDING ON OUR FOOLISH GOVERNMENT AND ATTORNEY SOME TIME EASY IS GOOD BUT NOT ALWAYS TRUE…

  • Laz

    You’re MORE THEN RIGHT!!!

  • Mike Smith

    Using history as a measure, the people in power only understand….war.

  • USMC 69-75

    Well heck Jimmy, you only have 18 more to go!

  • USMC 69-75

    Heck Jimmy, you only have 18 more to go!

  • USMC 69-75

    Haller, I’d like to agree with you, that is what’s needed. But after what I have seen the last couple of years…..the drivers with the balls to do it are VERY few. Those days are over I’m afraid, to many spineless wanders out there, not to mention all the foreign drivers that don’t give a rip. Old Billy boy knew what he was doing back when, when he started subsidizing the big carriers JB and pumpkin, pushing for more drivers and paying them to do it. Pushing us off the power seat. The last real shutdown was I believe 92/93 when they took our bird dogs out of OUR trucks. Over 375,00 shutdown in about 2 1/2 days, till the government told CNN and the rest to stop reporting on the strength and choke hold we were developing, causing everybody to go back to work. Didn’t have the internet, and cell phones back then like today.

  • PattyCakes

    It’s far past time to call it what it is …. it’s all about ‘ FINES ‘ !

    If it didn’t have a way of generating Cash to fund a government job / agency, the government wouldn’t want anything to do with it … if you think it’s all about ‘ Safety ‘, you’re a fool !

  • Jimmy the Greek

    Believe it or not I already have a rating . and it is a decent one that should be having them look somewhere else however i drive a 1998 model that needs paint so i keep getting picked ,

  • Lisa Hoag

    WELL I HAVE TO AGREE WITH MR. JASON BELOW! HOW FUNNY I JUST WALKED OUT TO THE MAILBOX I JUST RECEIVED A LETTER FROM FMCSA ON THIS TOPIC HOW IRONIC. I JUST WENT THROUGH A SAFETY INSPECTION AND PASSED. WE ARE ONE TRUCK ONE TRAILER COMPANY. WITH ONE 14 HOUR OF SERVICE VOILATION THAT HAPPEN ALMOST 2 YEARS GO. AND ON TOP OF IT HE HAS NEVER IN 38 YEARS OF BEING A OWNER OPERATOR HAD A ACCIDENT. OR SERIOUS VOILATION. I WOULD LIKE TO NO WHO IS STANDING UP FOR US LITTLE COMPANYS? THE WAY IT LOOKS SOMEONE THAT HAS NO IDEA ABOUT THE BUSINESS OR THE FMSCA HAS NO IDEA ABOUT THE BUSINESS. I THINK THEY SHOULD GIVE UP THERE DAY JOBS AND TRY THE TRUCKING FOR A LITTLE WHILE AND SEE WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT BEFORE THEY GO AND MAKE SOME OF THESE STUPID RULES.

  • greg

    poor man getting poorer and rich man getting richer

  • MarsRiver

    I would add that those inspections cannot come from the home base state i.e; J.B. Hunt or Walmart being inspected in Arkansas.

  • jerry

    accidents are independent as drivers are independent from other drivers. LTL drivers have lower total accidents then Over The Road drivers. Quantifying a risk means LTL Carriers will consistently have a better CSA score…do they? Perhaps, tying product into the complex equation, working to exhaustion is great for profit…but is it safe.

  • jayne

    this does not need to be a total shut down.. take one month and all trucks boycott ONE state.. the first state I would target is Washington D.C. nothing goes in or out, the next month target California… these two state(d.c. not a state) would draw the attention and allow the drivers to continue to make money

  • USMC 69-75

    So you want to just tickle them?
    This won’t work any better than a complete shutdown. At least a “COMPLETE” shutdown they would get the message harder and faster. Tickling them won’t do anything but piss off a few people and make us look like idiots! Don’t haul cheap freight, would get the message across. If everybody would adhere to that, but you have to many company drivers, and lease operators that don’t have a clue what the loads actually pay, because they get paid on a sliding mileage scale, or some other cock n bull rip off pay system, so that won’t work either. You either hit them hard and fast, or just keep on peddling down the road, and eating the garbage they are feeding us!

  • Thompson Pass Trucker

    Steve, did you request a report for each of the ‘no violations found’ inspections? An inspection is an inspection and can only be counted as an inspection if there is a report filed on it.
    The NVF inspections don’t nullify the violation inspection but they dilute the scores and lower your numbers.

  • david webster

    There is a plan to force many smaller trucking co.(s) out the industry and replace them with (offshore) low wage drivers and the large co.(s) can have control. Then the gov. will be (surprised) when a repeat of the propane shortage happens. The large co.(s) have control of the gov.Monsanto is doing the same thing and if a disease hits the roundup ready crops we could a crop failure as bad as ireland had 170 years ago. Our country on small business.

  • Swede

    I got one better Mercenary Man, I was inspected twice in the same day on the same load 60 miles apart. I told the second group of the situation and was told quote, “they are there we are here”. I just shook my head and pulled out my note pad to start copying all numbers on the car and his name tag. He asked what I was doing and I said I’m going to find out what the procedural rules apply in this situation. He got all uppity and told me to take off. I must have struck a nerve or this was illegal. Keep thinking people don’t just lay down to get walked on!!!!

  • MercenaryMan

    Speaking of the CSA score, why couldnt they attach that to the trucks License plate number then as you drive thru the scanners it pops up, if you have a good clean score, BYPASS, but this is the same as a Clean driving record, or safety record….it means nothing.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    What scanners ? the states i run in i have never seen any , hell if they had them in louisiana my brother wood be in jail lol , he never stops a the chicken house he just runs them or goes around the back side ,

  • Jimmy the Greek

    And what if one only runs in there home state ?

  • MarsRiver

    I would submit “Intrastate” drivers whether Company, I.C., or O/O be subject to quarterly state inspections with an easily identifiable windshield sticker placed in the lower left corner with an easily read expiration date conducted by a certified independent maintenance facility to perform such inspections. This would free up DOT in that particular state to focus on outside carriers coming in. However, should the DOT feel it necessary to conduct a random on “Intrastate” drivers this option would always be available.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    I think the dot should be more like the old ICC not heard from much and never see out of there offices .

  • MarsRiver

    I want to agree with you, however, with the ever changing environment of the Transportation Industry there’s no doubt that checks and balances are needed at certain points not only to protect the general public, but to protect you and me, too. I just tend to believe the “long arm” of the government has reached in too far and are crippling the blood flow of the economic engine at the behest of a few. Like squeezing blood from an onion…we’ll all be crying long before they accomplish what they “think” they want.

  • Lance

    Its time to shut down to show everybody truckers will not take anymore abuse.

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