SFD rule’s crash-risk disconnect: Data show most analyzed ‘Unfit’ carriers don’t crash

user-gravatar
This chart shows the percentage of carriers who recorded a crash in the 12 months following an Unfit determination based on roadside inspection data alone. For smaller carriers, the “no crash” rate was even higher — upwards of 70 percent.This chart shows the percentage of carriers who recorded a crash in the 12 months following an Unfit determination based on roadside inspection data alone. For smaller carriers, the “no crash” rate was even higher — upwards of 70 percent.

Will FMCSA’s proposal to alter the way it scores carriers — and, ultimately, puts them out of service — suffer from the same crash-risk disconnect as the current Compliance, Safety, Accountability Safety Measurement System?

A report published this week indicates it will, at least based on the carriers the agency said would have been deemed “Unfit” to operate when applying the new Safety Fitness Determination formula to a sect of carriers in 2011.

The Safety Fitness Determination rule — and the CSA system at large — are boring, technical subjects. But their impact on the industry and owner-operators’ livelihood shouldn’t be diminished, as Overdrive Senior Editor Todd Dills noted in a similar piece on the SFD rule this week.

Numbers obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request made by the Alliance for Safe, Efficient and Competitive Truck Transportation show that more than half (56 percent) of the carriers FMCSA said would have been deemed “Unfit” in 2011 under the inspection-based portions of the Safety Fitness Determination rule — and who remained in business for at least the next year — recorded zero crashes in that 12-month time span.

Perhaps even more concerning for owner-operators and small carriers, ASECTT’s Freedom of Information Act-obtained numbers show that 76 percent of carriers with five or fewer trucks, and who had been flagged Unfit to operate, recorded no crashes in the 12 months succeeding.

ASECTT obtained the data from FMCSA on May 4, according to a roughly 60-page comment filed by a coalition of carrier groups, including ASECTT, during the Safety Fitness Determination rule’s public comment period.

The numbers — and the questions they present about the proposed rule’s methodology — add to the mounting pressure the agency’s faced since publishing the proposed rule in January. The rule’s heavy use of data from the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Safety Measurement System’s BASICs violates both federal law and common sense, trucking industry groups have argued. Legislation has also been presented in the U.S. House to block the agency from continuing to work on the rule, pending an overhaul of the CSA program.

The rule would replace the current Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory and Conditional rating system used by FMCSA to determine owner-operators’ ability to operate and would replace it with a single “Unfit” determination; all other carriers would be presumed fit to operate.

The rule also allows the agency to make the “Unfit” determination based on data alone: Any owner-operator failing two SMS BASICs will be hit with an immediate “Unfit” rating and will have a certain number of days to file a plan to fix the issues that ail them. Owner-operators failing one BASIC will be flagged for an investigation.

But carriers tagged Unfit based on CSA data alone may not pose the crash risk FMCSA claims they do, at least according to the numbers obtained by ASECTT.

Of the 211 carriers that FMCSA says would have been deemed Unfit due solely to their BASIC scores in 2011, more than half — 113 — recorded no crashes in the next 12 months.

Just five carriers of the 211 accounted for 27 percent of the group’s crashes in the next year-long period. Of the 211, 92 run five trucks or fewer, and 73 percent of those carriers recorded no crashes in the next 12 months.

These trends were even more pronounced for the 120 carriers who failed a BASIC and were then determined Unfit via an investigation. Of those carriers, 62 percent were not involved in a crash in the 12 months following the Unfit determination. For carriers running five or fewer trucks, 82 percent who were found Unfit recorded no crashes in the next 12 months.

See more coverage of the proposed Safety Fitness Determination rule — and the subsequent backlash — at the links below.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2021 edition of Partners in Business.
Download
Partners in Business Issue Cover