SFD’s ties to the ‘discredited’ CSA SMS: Just one ‘fatal flaw’ in safety-rating rulemaking, coalition argues

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Updated Jun 3, 2016
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CSA scores and measures and ratings again? –exasperated anonymous owner-operator, circa June 2016 … 

I know, I know … there’s more than a little fatigue over the issue of the carrier scoring and attendant rating program these days. It’s tended to dominate a lot of the safety-enforcement coverage these last several years. As noted “Charlie” under this post about the CSA SMS “absolute measure” scores returning to public view earlier this year after Congress gave the SMS percentiles and BASIC alerts a vote of no confidence in December: “I’m sorry, I didn’t really read the whole article. I just saw blah blah blah measure and blah blah blah directive and lots of other mumbo jumbo. … I don’t really care what they do anymore with the scores. Obviously, from the poll results, lots of others don’t also.”

He was referring to the following results, which at best show that for the majority of independents, brokers have given up attempting to judge carriers based on SMS scores, if they ever did (yes, there are good brokers).

Since CSA percentiles were pulled last December, have you been required to supply your private scores?

(Catch broker group TIA’s comments on the SFD proposed rule and carrier rating via the SMS methodology at this link to Overdrive’s reporting — in short, they’re pretty fatigued with CSA SMS scores themselves….)

But bear with me on this, as the “discredited” nature of SMS methodology, given Congress’ removal of the percentiles and alerts from public view, isn’t the only problem with the Safety Fitness Determination proposed rulemaking. The many such issues are on full display in the comments posted to the docket for the FMCSA’s rulemaking by the coalition of carrier interest groups that’s been particularly active on these issues relative to small carriers this past year. The coalition includes the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, the ASECTT group and the Western States Trucking Association, among others.

Its central message, reflected in a variety of other comments to the docket (and rounded up yesterday in this story by Matt Cole):

The roadside inspection data that the NPRM would use for SFDs is riddled with the same pervasive data quality defects that have always afflicted the SMS methodology on which the proposed rule is inextricably based. Those defects include disparate harmful impacts on smaller carriers, inconsistent enforcement practices by States, inadequate DataQ processes for challenging alleged violations, and the widespread undercounting of “clean” inspections.

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These are issues we’ve reported on ad infinitum over these past several years, of course. I’m reminded of my somewhat recent April conversation with Bob DeLullo about what he sees as the garbage-in, garbage-out dynamic when it comes to inspections and violations and their use to algorithmically rate carriers:

You can read the coalition’s commentary in full at this link, and more importantly than the above, it includes a section that spells out what the groups call a radical change in philosophy in the on-site investigations that could replace the current compliance-review system if the SFD goes through as proposed. I got to a little bit of that shift in this space last week, with a dissection of how the ELD mandate and SFD rule, taken together, could particularly change moving violations’ contribution to carrier safety ratings during these on-site investigations.

To wit: “FMCSA’s proposed investigation-based SFD method marks a radical change in philosophy by judging carriers on factors not reasonably within management’s control.” That section begins on Page 39 of the coalition’s comments, and is especially pertinent to those among you who have added a truck or two or more and continue to manage the business in part from the driver’s seat. The coalition charges the agency with revising the compliance-review process not to better assess management control of safety at a fleet but to simply make it “easier to find a carrier unfit.”

Catch the coalition’s commentary in full in the pdf at this link, and below find my piece from last week on the potentially larger importance of moving violations in the investigation process under the SFD below:

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