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Todd Dills

Will FMCSA ‘un-ring’ the CSA alarm?

| August 27, 2014


Coalition of trucking groups calls for removal of public CSA scores

Ten trucking groups sent a letter to the DOT pleading for the public scores in the CSA program to be removed from public view, pointing ...

With the Compliance, Safety, Accountability display changes in the bag, an interim administrator having taken the departing Anne Ferro’s place at helm of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the highly critical Congressional GAO report on CSA  long in the official dialogue over the program and the ASECTT lawsuit dismissed, trucking groups yesterday finally pulled their public trigger, asking the Department of Transportation to pull the CSA Safety Measurement System category rankings from public view altogether. 

Notably absent from the signatories to the letter was the National Association of Small Trucking Companies — when I spoke with NASTC head David Owen this morning he said of the letter and its signatories that he was “glad that they finally came around to agree with the positions that we’ve been taking since late 2009.” NASTC, you’ll recall, filed the first (and successful) lawsuit over the FMCSA’s encouragement of public use of CSA data, and was a large part in the recently failed ASECTT  lawsuit that took the argument for removing scores further.

While I’ve covered all of that to one degree or another, the argument for removing the scores from public view was bolstered heavily after the GAO’s report on the subject early this year, supplementing in my mind my own close looks at the subject of ranking fairness. And Overdrive readers have thought so, too. Among most of you, there’s clearly little love lost for the CSA initiative as it stands today. Reference these results from polling that ran with the June installments of the CSA’s Fallout series


CSA’s Fallout: Where the inspection action is

The top states ranked for inspection activity; Maryland heads up the intensity rankings as in our analysis last year.

As with NASTC’s efforts (extending back years), that polling has been quite a while ago now. For the 10 trucking business associations signing yesterday’s open letter to DOT, perhaps it’s taken this long to establish enough common ground among them to make the move already. Or they were waiting for new leadership at FMCSA — as we know, under Anne Ferro at least, the dig-in-the-heels strategy on public scoring has ruled the day since the program’s public launch in December 2010. And among some of the chatterers of the trucking world, I’ve learned, her imminent departure has been at least rumored since early Spring, plenty of time to get to work on a quorum. 

To the agency’s credit, they at least de-emphasize the CSA SMS percentile rankings (scores), with the update to the public display. But a large majority of readers agree with the CSA Coalition letter’s implication that those changes are only putting “lipstick on a pig,” as evidenced in the poll at the top of this post. Bedrock problems of data sufficiency and scoring methodology far outweigh the cosmetic issues in the display.

Public scrutiny of safety ratings in the CSA SMS is live with the recent update to the public display. Placed front and center of a carrier’s front page in the CSA SMS now is carrier’s current safety rating, often at odds with what percentile rankings in the SMS seem to say about the carrier's safety.

Public scrutiny of safety ratings in the CSA SMS is live with the recent update to the public display. Placed front and center of a carrier’s front page in the CSA SMS now is carrier’s current safety rating, often at odds with what percentile rankings in the SMS seem to say about the carrier’s safety.

The agency has created other problems with the update, too, given new prominence of carriers’ Safer safety rating front and center of the display profile, emphasizing the often-very-clear disconnect between the safety rating and the SMS that exists today. I wrote about that disconnect in July CSA’s Fallout reporting.

Likewise in recent months the changes to the DataQs violation-challenge process have given operators the power to force recognition of court verdicts on citations, if the change still assumes guilt in the CSA system before the court rules — and minus a citation, owner-operators and fleets will be stuck with the violation unless the issuing state/agency sees fit to remove it, as I wrote about earlier this month.

You can download a copy of the CSA Coalition letter to DOT via this link. Comments are already coming in on the effort, and it’s a healthy dose of skepticism, ultimately, that rules the day on the question of whether FMCSA will be responsive to the call for score removal. Reader Thomas Little may best have paraphrased the thoughts of many, including myself, commenting on Overdrive‘s Facebook page. With CSA, “FMCSA fully intended,” he wrote, to “let the industry do their policing for them. Spoon-feed the detailed data into the marketplace to drive consumer choice of motor carrier [and] insurance rates, and give the ambulance chasers one more tool in their arsenal. And then stand back and pretend that wasn’t how CSA was supposed to be used.

“I like what the trade orgs are trying to do, but they won’t be able to unring that bell.”

What do you think?

  • Born

    Make them financially responsible for the damage they cause. Oh we can’t do that? Why not? If that’s not an option then put them back on fries. Obviously they are not able to think ahead and plan. Maybe its because they don’t know what they are doing? Ever try data q? They send your concerns back to the agency that has to cover their own assembly and then rule on the reply. WTF? Throw the bums out.

  • guest

    Big business just wants it “removed” from view…so they are not held Liable for hiring Maniacs. They can simply say “we had no idea” these nasty trucker had such a Horrible Record….its all jockeying for position….nothing but a sick joke….

  • guest

    “Coalition of trucking industry Crooks” is what they actually are. Shippers, Insurance Companies, Brokers…….sure they want ALL this data HIDDEN at the BOTTOM of the they can continue with “business as usual”….they dont want ANYBODY to see a DAMN thing about the Lunatics they HIRE to haul freight on the CHEAP. lol
    HIDE IT ALL is their MOTTO….nobody ELSE gives a damn and why would they?

  • guest

    This “COALITION”…of Crooks….wants the LOWEST PAID Amigo to haul their freight….unaccountability is their middle name….ACCIDENTS and MAYHEM is their claim to Fame….they want it ALL Hidden and Pronto!!!!

  • guest

    HIDE the INFORMATION is the new Game in Town?? SeetheseMaggots running for Cover…now that all this Nasty Data is made Available………how Hilarious……sure they want it HIDDEN.

  • guest

    The LAST thing a Lying Cheating CROOK wants is HONEST information about him, his operation, his associates, made available to ANYONE…..they are CRIMINALS running CRIMINAL operations…Brokers, Shippers, InsuranceCompanies, Chameleon Carriers……HIDE THE DATA, COOK THE BOOKS, Falsify the LOGS is all they have ever Known…..they are Maggots.

  • guest

    A Cop will be able to bring up ALL yer DATA on a Smart Phone as he walks around Yer Rig…the days of “Hiding The Data” are damn sure long gone. Lawyers will bring up yer FILE in 2 seconds and PLAN to BBQ yer company in the Lawsuit and criminal proceedings…..Hiding The Data aint gonna happen……

  • chaindawg812

    It’s been in the works for many years the ones with the money have been trying to force independent ans small companies out of the market. With the help of politicians they impose onerous regulations on small companies and then have a hammer to beat us with. Any time the feds are in charge you need to follow the money to see where this is headed. So in short is CSA a good idea? HEII NO. One little prick with an ax to grind can ruin you in 5 minutes and you have little to no recourse, guilty until proven innocent.

  • safetygirl

    I may be misunderstanding guest. I work for a small and a mid-sized company. Is the issue you are addressing with broker shipper statements different than hiding Data from the public? Maybe you are addressing the order refusing to allow companies or drivers to blame them in legal action regarding coercion of drivers to run illegally. If so, I think you have a point.

    With regard to public display of data, it is pretty clear to me that the data ratings have very little to do with safety. There is a triangle with an exclamation point in it at the CSA online public site announcing to the world that one small company I know is a high risk for crash. Both accidents (which are not detailed at the site) are serious crashes caused by other motorists One was a serious injury crash in which a motorist crossed through barriers to pull in front of a tractor trailer traveling under the limit at 50 mph. Her injuries were minimized in effect by the actions of the very skilled truck driver and she is at home today with her family thanks to him. The second was an accident in which the driver was a roadside witness and not involved in the serious crash in which a recklessly speeding motorist flipped his own car. Our driver administered aid, called for help and gave a statement to the attending officer. We are stuck with that public display for two years with no opportunity for recourse. Maintenance data is just as lame. Don’t even let me go there!

  • safetygirl

    Public display of the current detailed data and CSA scores is wrong. It is equivalent to posting the job performance portion of personnel files for public employees at a nationally advertised online site.

    A case could be made for the public’s right to see what its employees have been disciplined for. Just think of what a skewed and unfair picture could be created by those files. No circumstances explained, no assurance of truth, one persons word against those they have power over, no judge or jury who can objectively consider complaints, etc.
    Maybe there are only four write ups in Mary’s file and two are for being late to work. To those who don’t understand how the system works, Mary would look like she is late 50% of the time. Maybe the temp hired last summer accused Gerald of some indecency before she was dumped for bad job performance and unending drama creation. Due to necessity of addressing all such complaints supers would have had to investigate and document personnel files accordingly. Poor Gerald will have the flag of possible indecent conduct available for all to see. There are any number of unforeseen possibilities afforded by such an attempt at transparency for the sake of improvement in public offices. Future prospective employers would utilize public employee previous job performance information as well as insurance companies, doctors, lawyers, and future mothers in-law.

  • Deez Nuts

    Overdrive, feel free to get rid of guest accounts, readers feel free to thumb down obvious trolls. Thumbing down the trolls makes their comments dissappear (at least that’s what it’s supposed to do) strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.