Analyst: CSA ‘sea change’ coming

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The trucking industry wants change to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety-scoring/ranking program, and Overdrive readers are no exception to that rule.

Late-April, early-May polling here at shows growing margins in the “yes” columns in answer to the following question.

Should carriers’ CSA SMS scores/rankings be removed from public view?

The last time the magazine asked the question, a year ago in advance of the CSA’s Fallout series of reports last year, “yes” answers accounted for just 68 percent of responses. A year later, following a broad movement among motor carrier groups and individual interactions at the Congressional level and throughout government, more than 80 percent of responses say yes to pulling back the reins on the program.

“I think there’s a lot of legitimacy to the movement until these scores are fixes,” said Dan Murray, American Transportation Research Institute vice president. As a result of such pressure placed on regulators and Congress, Murray, speaking last week to a gathering of attendees of the Truckload Carriers Association’s Safety & Security Division annual meeting, believes owner-operators and the rest of the industry will get a “sea change in CSA” in 2-3 years such that it “somehow becomes useful to industry.”

Murray, as did others attending the conference, defended the CSA concept broadly by virtue of the accountability it’s given carriers and drivers for safety. “The concept is great,” Murray said, “it’s the delivery that failed.”

Chief among the problems, particularly given the widely diverging tactics and approaches to inspection selection and other enforcement at the state and local levels, is the percentile-ranking nature of the CSA Safety Measurement System’s categories of measurement and its public nature. As Murray made note of in his presentation, results of ATRI’s relatively recent shipper survey on CSA showed that “96 percent [of shipper] were checking existing carrier accounts’ scores, and 100 percent were checking prospective accounts’.”

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Since introduction in March, not much seems to have happened with the House bill (H.R. 1371) that would require a concerted study and revamp of the program, including pulling SMS percentile rankings/scores from public view. Attempts to move similar language into drafts of the next highway reauthorization may surface again. Nonetheless, CSA’s inequities and irregularities remain a topic of large concern all around the industry. What’s your prediction of the outcome? Drop a comment here or call 530-408-6423 to weigh in with a voice message.

Read more about the House bill and background of the broad opposition to the CSA program’s public scores at this link.

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