Overdrive Extra

Max Heine

You read it here first: CSA’s built-in unfairness

| February 04, 2014

A good title says a lot, and this week’s GAO report on FMCSA’s CSA and its faulty SMS does fairly well: “Modifying the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program Would Improve the Ability to Identify High Risk Carriers.”

CSA(Should you care to spoon out the remaining letters from the alphabet soup, that’s Government Accountability Office, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Safety Measurement System.)

If you harbor any doubt about GAO’s conclusions, you can review the 100-plus-page document. Or you can review the much shorter, but still in-depth reporting by Overdrive Senior Editor Todd Dills. With the March (“Inconsistent enforcement”) and May (“Crashes and interventions”) issue installments of our CSA Data Trail series, Dills scooped GAO by at least seven months and nailed many of the same major points that GAO does.

Check the story titles below, this time from our coverage, and you’ll see other angles on the CSA mess GAO addresses. These and other stories, as well as an interactive U.S. map plotting inspection intensity measurements, violation priorities, crash intensity and more by state, can be found at our comprehensive CSA Data Trail site, shared with sister publication Commercial Carrier Journal.   

“Risk & Reward: How CSA’s data shows discrimination toward small carriers.”

“CSA’s crash flaw”

Inconsistent enforcement: CSA v. the independent

FMCSA has been hearing bits and pieces of these and other criticisms of CSA for years. Let’s hope the detailed account of the program’s flaws accelerates needed changes.

  • Joe Rajkovacz

    Todd, 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. FMCSA can fix that problem by doing exactly what all the larger fleets/trucking organizations have wanted all along – reprioritize inspection criteria to focus on the little guys. I’ve always said one-truck guys were in a “sweet spot” by and large because they did not have enough inspections over 24 months to populate a percentile ranking. I strongly suspect that dynamic is going to change.

  • haller

    Rajkovacz, if that’s your real name. Big trucking companies have by-pass @ dot scales…. FMCSA can fix your problem by inspecting ALL trucks from LARGER carriers… I strongly HOPE the dynamic will change when the dot inspects ALL LARGE carrier trucks on a regular basis.. Re-prioritize inspection criteria to focus on the BIG guys.. The BIG guys are sneaking past all the dot scales because there Big guys,,, and whats their gross weight per truck ???
    No one knows. Do the one truck carriers or OO’s lobby government, NO they don’t.. Do the large carriers and Big trucking companies lobby government ,,, YES they do… Hey Rajkovacz,, cry me a river and stop your BS…

  • Todd Dills

    Well, Joe, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it’s already changed in that regard, that there already is an outsize appetite among law enforcement around the nation for independent owner-operator and small-fleet inspections, as it were, and not just a function of larger fleets’ use of weigh-station bypassing, as we’ve reported. There’s also this dynamic, which I hear about fairly regularly: http://www.overdriveonline.com/profilin-not-so-stylin-at-the-scale-house/

    A question, then: If the lack of data and the problems in small fleet scoring are in fact insurmountable obstacles for FMCSA making this system actually work as designed in a fair way, what’s the alternative: remove scores from public view and stick with current safety rating system based on in-person reviews or … what do you think?

  • Joe Rajkovacz

    Removing public viewing of percentile rankings is appropriate considering what the GAO found – which was not surprising. The bigger issues (and one lost totally on the rant from “haller” who only has his “opinion” and has not obviously read the report) is that without a sufficient number of inspections (data sufficiency), the vast majority of 1 and 2 truck carriers will NEVER populate a percentile ranking. The only way to change that is to force more inspections on the little guys so they populate a ranking – more inspections on small fleets and less on large is exactly what larger motor carriers want (another point lost on “haller”). Contrary to what “haller” believes, lot’s of small carriers use PrePass and guess what happens when they don’t get roadside inspections? They get a letter from PP that they have been defaulted to the highest inspection criteria until they are inspected – no green light. My point is and always has been, the majority of 1-2 truck carriers don’t have a “score” and the only way to change that is with more inspections targeted on the little guys. Not an outcome I support to “fix” CSA, but one that can likely happen considering the politics playing out on this issue in D.C.

  • Todd Dills

    It’s true that FMCSA forces 10 percent (or more, not looking at past reporting right now but I’m thinking the number is 10 percent) of “data-insufficient” carriers into that “inspect” category in ISS on a periodic basis. Let’s talk more about it soon…

  • Fleetguy643

    In fairness I work for a BIG guy and we have had all “by-pass” rights revoked due to low performance on CSA. Not defending the overall system just pointing out what I know to be fact regarding this one point. Overall this CSA system is like any other system bureaucracy creates. Its intended purpose is just. However, the way it is designed and implemented by the government leads to minimal results at a higher than predicted economic cost.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    Do away with all of it ! Bring back the old ICC And quit screwing with trucks and don’t let police do inspections , lets all go back to the way it was done in the 70s

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