Following letters to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx by two industry coalition groups (including the CCTA) asking that FMCSA be required to limit the public availability of motor carrier safety data, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) submitted a similar letter to Mr. Foxx on November 14, 2014.
The letter signed by CVSA Executive Director, Steve Keppler was supportive of the safety goals and improvements to carrier monitoring instituted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) under its CSA initiative. However, CVSA believes the data should only be used as a law enforcement tool – not available to a public that has little understanding of how to read the data.
Mr. Keppler stated in his letter, “As you are aware, a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found CSA SMS (Safety Measurement Scores) to be unreliable predictors of individual fleet crash propensity. Specifically, the GAO found that (during the period studied) FMCSA identified many carriers as “high risk” that were not later involved in a crash.”
The letter described the necessity to further refine CSA’s SMS and until that is accomplished Mr. Keppler stated, “Until these improvements are made, however, CVSA echoes stakeholders’ call to remove SMS scores from public view.”
During the CVSA meeting in Buffalo, New York in September, executive officers of the Alliance approached their industry partners in asking what the Alliance could do to aid industry. CCTA’s Director of Governmental Affairs, Joe Rajkovacz was one of many industry attendees asking that CVSA support industry in calling for the removal of the public display of carrier safety data. At the meeting Mr. Rajkovacz pointed out that it was only a matter of time before congress stepped in to correct bureaucratic inaction by U.S. DOT and not being responsive to the findings of the GAO study to make needed improvements to the safety oversight program.
Why This Matters to Motor Carriers Only Operating Inside California
Beginning January 1, 2016 significant changes will take place with CHP’s Biennial Inspection of Terminal (BIT) program. All intrastate only motor carriers currently operating with a CA number and Motor Carrier Permit will be assigned a U.S. DOT number if they don’t already have one. Without changes at the federal level, anyone will then be able to go into FMCSA’s Safer System and review a particular motor carrier’s inspection and crash history. The details can be very specific and are used by insurers to assess risk and by plaintiff’s attorneys to characterize otherwise safe carriers as unsafe during trials after a crash based on improper interpretations of the data.
The reason for the assignment of a U.S. DOT number is so that inspections performed at roadside and fixed scale locations will be able to be uploaded into FMCSA’s database. Under the revised BIT program, motor carriers will only have a BIT inspection once in six years. Data collected from roadside inspections and accidents will be used by CHP to target motor carriers with poor on-road safety performance for a BIT as needed (less than six years). This will allow CHP to use a data driven approach so that their limited manpower is actually being used more efficiently to intervene with motor carriers exhibiting a higher safety risk. Essentially, California is going to “piggy-back” on the federal safety monitoring system.
The CCTA supported legislation allowing CHP to improve the BIT program. We’ve met with officials from CHP as they have begun implementing the legislatively mandated reforms and some of the issues we do have with implementing BIT reform can only be resolved federally. We do agree that motor carrier safety data should only be available to motor carrier management and law enforcement until FMCSA has resolved the issues outlined in the GAO report.
To read the GAO report, follow this link: www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-114