Trucking Industry Challenges FMCSA CSA Rules Before Congressional Committee: CSA Regs Hurt, Don’t Help Say Trucking Reps. Again.

Trucking Industry Challenges FMCSA CSA Rules Before Congressional Committee: CSA Regs Hurt, Don’t Help Say Trucking Reps. Again.

The fight is far from over regarding federal regulation of commercial truck drivers working on the job with things like the new rules on Hours of Service.  Around two weeks ago, on September 13, 2012, various trucking experts appeared before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit in Washington, D.C. to report to Congressional lawmakers about new studies that have been done on federal regulations on trucking and how some of those regulations actually harm rather than help.

Here’s the briefing memo for the Subcommittee if you’re interested in reading the Congressional Sub-committee’s synopsis of things.  What is being challenged, with research studies to support the position, is that the Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) Program instituted by the federal government is failing to do what it is supposed to do — find the truck drivers on the road who are at the highest risk of crashing their big rigs or semis or 18 wheelers and causing accidents, and wrecks, and serious injuries and deaths.

We’ve monitored the CSA Program for awhile now.  The CSA Program was tested in a handful of states; by this time last year, CSA had been implemented across the country; and for a very, very long time the trucking industry has not been happy with CSA and has challenged it in various ways – including threating lawsuits.

This time, they are arguing to Congress that what the CSA regulations are doing is ignoring fault and looking just at the number of crashes a particular company has experienced.  One example given during Congressional testimony was that rear-end collisions, where a trucker is hit in his Big Rig Semi Truck while setting sit, is counted by the FMCSA exactly the same as if the truck were involved in a highway crash going at high speed.

They argue that the system is flawed and unfair and that small business owners are the ones who are being hurt the most by this — and that while FMCSA has been reporting they are studying the matter, they have been studying things for three going on four years now, and without result.

Appearing before Congress on behalf of the trucking industry was FedEx’s Vice President of Safety and Maintenance, Scott Mugno, as well as representatives from Gentry Trailways, C.H. Robinson, and Colonial Freight Systems, Inc.  Also giving testimony was Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association, along with representatives of the Texas Department of Public Safety and RoadSafe America.

Scott Mugno also issued a press release, speaking not only for his company but as representative of the American Trucking Association, which heralds itself as “largest national trade association for the trucking industry.” From that release, Mugno stated that:

“…while ATA has been supportive of the objective of CSA, to reduce commercial motor vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities, since the program’s inception. However, ATA has significant concerns with the program in its current form….FMCSA must acknowledge that CSA scores are often not a reliable predictor of future crash risk. Second, the agency must confirm that CSA’s highest priority should be to focus on the least safe carriers. And finally…FMCSA must establish a specific plan to develop and implement the changes necessary to ensure that the system functions as intended.”

After the hearing, the Chairman of the Subcommittee, Representative John Duncan, Jr.,  issued his own news release of the hearing:

September 13, 2012 2:35 PM

Washington, DC – A Congressional hearing today focused on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) truck and bus safety program, and ensuring the program most accurately reflects safety ratings of motor carriers.

The Highways and Transit Subcommittee, chaired by U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), received testimony from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), the trucking and bus industry, law enforcement officials, and safety advocates on FMCSA’s new motor carrier safety enforcement and compliance program – the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, or CSA – and issues related to its implementation.

The following is Chairman Duncan’s statement from today’s hearing:

“I think everyone will agree that decreasing fatalities and injuries resulting from truck and bus crashes is the most important goal the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is charged with. With this goal in mind, FMCSA implemented CSA in December of 2010.

“CSA was designed to maximize the Agency’s resources by compiling carrier violations from inspections and crash reports in order to determine the future crash risk of a truck or bus company. This data is used to create a type of safety profile for truck and bus companies so consumers can make educated choices when selecting companies.

“However, on July 16th of last year I spoke to a group that is a member of the Alliance for Safe, Efficient, and Competitive Truck Transportation (ASECTT) who raised concerns related to the methodology used in CSA, specifically in the Safety Measurement System or SMS.

“Some of these concerns arise from the fact that 40% of the 500,000 active truck and bus companies generate a score in at least one of the seven SMS categories, also called BASICs. The number of companies that generate a score in all BASICs is unknown. A comprehensive understanding of a carrier’s safety is difficult to achieve with this lack of data.

“In addition, not all states report every violation to FMCSA, so the SMS methodology is only as good as the data flowing into the system.

“These data problems present a significant challenge for small trucking companies which make up the majority of commercial motor vehicles. Since many of these small companies generate little to no data into the SMS, their scores can fluctuate dramatically and the small companies that generate no score are misconceived as unsafe.

“Questions have also been raised over the relationship of some violations and whether they are indicators of future crash risk. Scores generated in certain BASICs may not have a correlation to future crash risk and may inadvertently focus FMCSA’s enforcement measures on the wrong carriers.

“Shippers and brokers are also left wondering how to evaluate the safety fitness of carriers with a score in only one BASIC or no score at all. Recent court rulings have established ‘duty of reasonable care’ requirements that brokers and shippers must meet when hiring a carrier in order to avoid negligent hiring lawsuits. Brokers and shippers are now in the position of determining whether a carrier is sufficiently safe to hire based on incomplete or misleading scores.

“The intentions behind CSA are good, but it is not a perfect system. We are holding this hearing today to identify where we can improve CSA and how we can reduce fatalities and injuries while keeping the engine of our economy moving.

“I hope this hearing will help Members of Congress and interested parties better understand these concerns and generate proposals to make CSA a more effective tool.”

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