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Should the FMCSA make CSA scores public?

09.17.2019 - 11:05 AM Comments: 0

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores have been a highly polarized topic throughout the trucking industry, as they were removed from public view in 2015 when the FAST Act was passed. CSA scores are generally used by the FMCSA to identify trucking companies for roadside inspections and other compliance actions, according to Freight Waves.

Since the FAST Act passed, safety data has only been accessible to enforcement personnel and motor carriers who have login credentials. And while the scores are still crucial for the livelihood of drivers and companies alike, their lack of visibility to the public has largely been seen as a plus for the industry.

Nevertheless, included in an appropriations bill that was passed in the House of Representatives, was a proposal to make CSA scores available online to the public once again.

This led to some opposition from trucking industry groups such as the American Trucking Association, the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association, and the Transportation Intermediaries Association, who sent a joint letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

“The FAST Act directed a full diagnostics and reboot of the CSA system, yet, this provision would disregard that legislative directive, as well as the ongoing work at [U.S. Department of Transportation] to improve CSA, instead returning CSA to a system of inaccurate scores,” the groups said in the letter.

The Safety Measurement System (SMS), which plays a part in calculating CSA scores, has largely been viewed as a flawed system throughout the trucking industry. 

Opponents of the system continue to argue that CSA scores are in many cases inaccurate, as the SMS was identified to have had a number of “data quality issues,” according to a report conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) in 2017. 

The fact of the matter is CSA scores can make or break a company, which is also noted in the report. While there is no concrete data provided, the report does say that it would be “reasonable” to expect poor scores to have a substantial impact on business.

In other words, if the scores were to go public, it could theoretically create issues for carriers and companies that have low scores, but also, in turn, improve business for those who are compliant. 

Additionally, while the SMS system has widely been denounced for its inaccuracies, the FMCSA has provided data that shows it has positively affected safety throughout the industry. 

From 2009-2016, data shows that the percentage of inspections with violations had decreased over time, per the NAS report. SMS violations dropped from 1.35 violations to 1.10 by 2016. 

The same can be said for the investigation of violations, as violation rates significantly dropped from 2009 to 2014. In 2014 alone, violation rates dropped from 1.24 to 1.06 one year after an investigation. 

As previously mentioned, accountability is one of the biggest reasons to make scores public again. If a carrier knows that potential clients or partners can actively keep track of their scores, they may be motivated to make sure that they’re compliant as much as possible. 

According to the NAS report, many carriers actually feel like the idea of a scoring system can be useful in theory, as it can ultimately lead to drivers practicing safer habits on the road. 

“We find that carriers are generally supportive of a system that reliably discriminates between safe and unsafe carriers, and that motivates unsafe carriers to improve their safety practices, leaving safe carriers alone,” reads the report. 

Nevertheless, it’s also clear that many in the industry still feel like there is vast room for improvement within the current system. 

With no better option currently available, the FMCSA has periodically made tweaks to their current system. Their latest tweak has been the proposal to make the popular Crash Preventability Program permanent, which would allow non-at-fault drivers to get their crashes reviewed, in turn not affecting their CSA scores if their crash is deemed “not preventable.”

While the proposed permanence of the program would be welcomed, making CSA scores public again is an issue that the industry at large may also not agree with. 

So what do you think? Should scores be available to the public or should they continue having limited visibility until a better system is put in place? Let us know in the comments or on social media!

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