Last month, Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (”FAST Act of 2015”). This new law makes changes to the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Safety Measurement System for commercial trucks, and lots of those changes involve things that the trucking industry likes because they ease the CSA safety requirements.
Regarding the CSA Program, check out our past posts on the legislative fight to get this updated and revamped trucking safety legislation passed into law:
- CSA Report Cards: Are We Safer Now From Big Rig Semi Truck Crashes?
- Trucking Industry Challenges FMCSA CSA Rules Before Congressional Committee: CSA Regs Hurt, Don’t Help Say Trucking Reps. Again.
- CSA 2010 – Saving Lives or Killing Businesses? Depends Upon Who You Ask
FAST Act Hides CSA Scores From Accident Victims
One big thing for citizens to know is that under the new FAST Act, the public no longer gets to see the safety scores of trucking companies (”CSA scores”). These scores give information like the carrier’s past inspection reports and its violation history.
These scores were removed from public view after the trucking industry pushed and prodded (lobbied) for this to happen. See, for example, this August 2014 letter sent to the Secretary for the Department of Transportation by a powerhouse group of companies and trade associations that control the commercial truck and bus industries in America.
Hiding CSA Scores Is a Problem for Accident Victims
Why should this concern you? Knowing the CSA Score is important for those injured in a truck crash where they have been hurt in an accident with a commercial truck (big rig, semi, tractor trailer, 18-wheeler) because the CSA score can be evidence of negligence on the part of the motor carrier in several ways. For instance, a record of lackadaisical maintenance of their rigs in the months prior to a crash caused by a blown tire could be part of an accident victim’s proof of the carrier’s liability for their injuries.
Before December 4, 2015 (the effective date of the FAST Act), you could visit the FMCSA website and check out a property carrier’s CSA record. Now, that information is not available to the public. Passenger carriers (think your Greyhound bus) are still there for you to check out.
FAST Act’s Beyond Compliance Program
However, one change in the new FAST Act hopes to create more safety for those of us on the roads with these heavy and huge vehicles. This is the new “Beyond Compliance” program. Here, Congress is directing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to do more, and to get it done within the next 18 months.
This isn’t a big surprise for FMCSA, however. The agency was asking for public comments on these measures months ago, asking that information be submitted by the public (including the motor carriers who will be financially impacted by any new safety measures) regarding “… a company’s proactive voluntary implementation of state-of-the-art best practices and technologies when evaluating the carrier’s safety.”
The FMCSA was looking to develop its Beyond Compliance program as early as April 2015, defining it as “voluntary programs implemented by motor carriers that exceed regulatory requirements, and improve the safety of commercial motor vehicles and drivers operating on the Nations’ roadways by reducing the number and severity of crashes. Beyond Compliance would not result in regulatory relief.”
Beyond Compliance Tasks for FMCSA
The new law passed by Congress requires the following from the federal agency that oversees the trucking industry to develop and put into operation a system giving CSA credit to carriers who do one or a combination of the following:
- install advanced safety equipment;
- use enhanced driver fitness measures;
- adopt fleet safety management tools, technologies and programs; or
- satisfy an as-yet-unspecified set of other “standards determined appropriate by the Administrator.”
Future CSA Credits for Motor Carriers
That last requirement is an open-ended one. According to the FMCSA, this will likely include giving motor carriers credit for things like:
- Using collision mitigation systems;
- Using speed limiters;
- Using electronic logs;
- Safety Training for their truck drivers; and
- Setting up compensation incentive programs for meeting safety goals.
In short, the new “Beyond Compliance” program has a worthy goal of providing incentives for the trucking industry to do things that make us all safer on the roads with their big trucks. This happens by the federal government giving them credits for buying new technology like electronic logs for their trucks and setting up safety training classes for their drivers.
That’s a good thing. Any encouragement to get trucking safer for all of us is a good thing.
However, for many critics of the Beyond Compliance law, this is merely a smokescreen to hide the fact that the trucking company is still a dangerous business. Buying some new gizmos for their rigs isn’t going to change things, they argue.
Buying the stuff helps them get a better CSA Score, but does it really make a difference?
Arguably, the Beyond Compliance program fails to do the real work, which is to make trucking safer for truck drivers and those with whom they share the roads. Research shows that things like electronic logs haven’t changed compliance — those CSA scores didn’t suddenly jump up when the new technology was installed.
In fact, the new gizmos may have made things worse. See, “Is Safety Being Served?“ in Landline Magazine,
Truck accidents are often fatal crashes where the truck driver is killed as well as others involved in the crash. Trying to make our roads safer as we drive alongside these big commercial trucks is the reason for CSA with its regulations like HOS Rules. Hiding carrier scores doesn’t help the public or the accident victim. And it’s debatable whether or not the Beyond Compliance program will bring greater safety to our roads in the future.
Trucks are dangerous and driving a commercial truck is a high risk job. Be careful out there!