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Overdrive Extra

Max Heine

Managing the monster known as CSA

| May 11, 2013

“What hath God wrought!”

– The first telegraph message in Morse code, sent by Samuel F.B. Morse 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration doesn’t claim to be God, but its aspirations in creating the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program have been superhuman. Now that CSA has run for more than two years, gaps between its desired results and certain actual results, along with a fuller awareness of its complexity, make observers wonder just what sort of creature the bureaucrats have birthed.

One-truck independents get inspected more often than larger carriers.

One-truck independents get inspected more often than larger carriers.

FMCSA “can’t understand the disaster they created,” wrote one reader, commenting on Overdrive’s CSA Data Trail series written by Senior Editor Todd Dills. “I have been told more than once by inspectors that they don’t even understand half of it. One even told me, ‘There’s so much crap in there, you could never learn it all.’ ”

CSA struck us that way, too. So Overdrive analyzed the system’s inspection, crash and scoring data, gathered by our parent company’s RigDig Business Intelligence unit, to see how well CSA actually is working to identify unsafe carriers and get their drivers off the road.

FMCSA officials admit the program is a work in progress. For example, the agency finally is working to resolve the absurd crash accountability problem – highlighted by the industry well before CSA even was launched – whereby drivers and carriers must bear some responsibility in the system for accidents that obviously are not their fault.

And now a closer look at inspection, violation and accident data shows more problems. The agency had little meaningful explanation for the irregularities when we raised questions such as:

Why has CSA failed to produce a single public score for 80 percent of carriers with operating authority? Why does inspection frequency vary so much geographically – for example, 32 inspections per lane-mile in Maryland vs. just 5 in bordering Virginia?

Since one-truck independents have the lowest rate of truck-involved crashes, why are they far more likely to be inspected – and to be put out of service – than drivers for 500-plus-truck carriers?

Learning how the system works, and consequently how to work the system, isn’t for the faint-hearted. That’s one reason so much enforcement unfairness has to do with the smallest fleets. They lack the compliance staffs to spar with auditors, so they get beat up the most – even when they don’t deserve it.

There is no quick fix for getting reckless drivers and carriers off the road. But as with most ambitious government initiatives (think the federal tax code), what’s needed is more simplicity, not less. What FMCSA has wrought is more than it and its state partners can manage well.



  • No Reform

    The program is a bit slanted..this cop can be talking to an Illegal Alien “trucker”….and let him go down the road?
    yet the American gets crucified? A bit discouraging.

  • No Reform

    The American citizen trucker has to jump thru Hoops or go to Jail….while out on the interstate the Illegal Alien “trucker” goes racing down the road with his jalopy truck..and gets away with it….not even supposed to BE here?????

  • Porter M. Corn

    Why don’t you take your racist bigoted OOIDA inspired BS and put it where the son don’t shine. If you have a problem knowing where that is, it is where you have you head firmly lodged.

    “Illegal alien truckers”? They don’t exist on US highways except in the minds of people such as yourself. And these Mexican- American truckers, whom I’m sure you’re referring to as well as their Mexican counterparts, have a safety record US carriers should aspire to.

    But CSA, As Max and Todd have pointed out, goes beyond national and international lines. It is screwing everyone, unfairly to be sure. Everyones score is slowly going into the intervention stage.

  • William McKelvie

    They are coming after all the smaller companies because they can. And the ATA is on their side of the fence. CSA is a joke, a bandaid made by a federal agency to make themselves LOOK important. The bad drivers off the road? Yeah good luck with that. Do bad drivers run down the road with BAD company equipment? Are we conveniently forgetting the GOOD drivers who go to their company and say this or that is not safe and get told to drive it anyway? Or lose their jobs? FMCSA and DOT, they leave the big carriers alone, which hire and put NEW drivers in trucks WAY before they are ready to be on the roads alone, much less in bad winter weather. We saw what happened with that this year with all the wrecks and ditch divers! Who is trying to convince whom that FMCSA is actually doing ANYTHING to make positive changes in the CSA? Surely not from what we hear on how they have not changed the ridiculous crash charging, and now are trying to make it more complicated? A crash is a crash, one person is at fault, the others are not! Trying to put WASHINGTON speak into trucking? Big mistake.

  • No Reform

    Sure Hitler whatever you say…..we could all listen to you since you know it all….that hairdoo has got to go……

  • No Reform

    There are thousands of court cases where an Illegal Alien was driving an 18 wheeler and killed American citizens over the fairly obvious YOU are not even in the trucking industry limpwrister…go back to the Gay bath house..they miss you. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.