‘CSA-equivalent’ scoring pitched to brokers, shippers

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Updated Oct 28, 2016

As I’ve suggested before, it was only a matter of time before a private provider re-engineered FMCSA’s now-hidden Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) percentile rankings and category alerts in the Safety Measurement System (SMS) categories of measurement.

golden triangleThat time is now, with the SaferWatch service (from the folks behind PostEverywhere for brokers) marketing what they’re calling CSA-e, “the industry’s first CSA equivalent numerical [carrier safety] scoring system,” the company says. It of course follows the FAST Act highway bill, which required FMCSA to stop sharing CSA percentiles and alerts publicly while also undertaking a required assessment of the CSA program with the National Academies to potentially revamp the SMS.

SaferWatch calls the CSA percentiles that were publicly available “the backbone resource for brokers selecting carriers and assessing risk.” CSA-e, based on the same methodology as the CSA SMS percentiles formerly provided by FMCSA, the company says, restores “valuable assessment metrics” and mitigates brokers/shippers’ risk.

Depends on who you ask, of course. The Transportation Intermediaries Association, which represents brokers and other intermediaries, has called CSA percentiles, SMS data and their use in such a manner problematic, to say the least. As I wrote just a few weeks ago, quoting the TIA directly:

“It has been and will remain TIA’s position that the safety rating is the sole determination of whether or not a carrier is safe to operate or not and that all CSA data and scores should be removed from public view in their entirety.”

In its press release on CSA-e, SaferWatch raises the specter of negligence lawsuits for brokers not utilizing available information assessing risks when selecting carriers with this threatening quote from Greenwich Transportation Underwriters Partner Ben Armistead: “Brokers and shippers who continue to take a head-in-the-sand position and refuse to believe the data matters will find this to be a huge mistake. They would do well to ask plaintiff lawyers if the data is relevant. I’m sure they would not like the answer.”

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What was initially sold to the industry as a law-enforcement tool (i.e., CSA) has clearly expanded well beyond that purpose, as has been seen ad infinitum since CSA’s introduction in late 2010.

Attorneys and other third parties might do well to consider: Congress pulled the percentiles and alerts for a reason, partly as a result of the myriad cases where the rankings/scores FMCSA was issuing just didn’t make sense, at both small and large carrier levels, due to the likewise myriad problems with the scoring system: the vast disparities in carrier operations making comparisons less meaningful, widely divergent enforcement approaches by region, the hard-fast boundaries of the peer groups and wild fluctuations in scores as carriers moved between them, the relative paucity of observations (in the form of inspections and violations) at the small carrier level making scoring unreliable, the lack of an accounting for crash fault or preventability, and on and on and on.

The myriad issues all worked together in FMCSA’s computation of the data to compound the problems such that a bona fide Act of Congress was all that could remedy the situation.

In short, it’s never been clearer that now is the time for brokers/shippers/attorneys/insurance companies to back off use of CSA percentiles in their carrier-vetting/evidence-gathering practices.

PS: Data-miner Vigillo’s CEO Steven Bryan penned a great look at the danger of any broker/shipper thinking of utilizing the the so-called “absolute measures” that FMCSA returned to the public CSA SMS two weeks back for carrier vetting. You can catch it in full on LinkedIn Pulse, and a brief excerpt follows. Early in the going, Bryan notes that there exist “39 States that permit almost any type of explosive fireworks without permits for July 4th festivities.”…

From “CSA Measures — Amateurs and Explosives”….

Just because a law makes something possible, does not make it a good idea.

There is tremendous complexity behind BASIC Measures that require experience, training, and careful handling before attempting to put them to use.  Unfortunately, after only a week of public exposure, we’re hearing from our customers and partners in the industry that BASIC Measures are being adopted as the new way to benchmark motor carriers and make carrier selection decisions by shippers, brokers and insurance. This article is my attempt to point out some of the flaws in jumping in without understanding everything you need to know about BASIC Measures and disarming bombs.

First, here are my cardinal rules:

  • Measures CANNOT be compared across BASICs
  • Measures CANNOT be compared within BASICs
  • Only those with deep knowledge and experience should play with dynamite

Be careful out there … (Read Bryan’s piece in full via this link.)