Update on the CSA Program

Update on the CSA Program

One of the tools QualifiedCarriers.com provides clients, is the ability to set your own thresholds for a variety of motor carrier safety and/or compliance data, with FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (“CSA”). Congress commissioned The National Academy of Sciences (“NAS”) to conduct a comprehensive review of the CSA program to test the validity of the system and the impact of its scores on the public who might consider using them. The NAS has completed its review. We’ll highlight some of the findings.

The program was found to be “structured in a reasonable way,” that it has sound reason behind the method of identifying motor carriers with a certain alert status, but that it should be done by a more statistical, measurable, principled approach. NAS took issue with FMCSA’s use of experts instead of relying on data.

The NAS did not make a recommendation as to whether SMS results and scores should be available to the public. However, the NAS recommends that the Agency conduct a detailed review and analysis of the potential impacts that those scores will have on the industry and the public if they are made readily available. With this said, CSA’s percentile scores may be hidden while that impact study is performed.

NAS recommended multiple quality and transparency improvements be made by FMCSA. Specifically, CSA should be a system that relies more upon data than selected expert opinion; FMCSA should embrace transparency so data quality can be tested and improved; NAS supports the direct estimation of variability in scores and rankings; all of which should allow FMCSA to better adapt to changes in the future. Additionally, NAS encouraged FMCSA to collaborate closely with state law enforcement to improve data quality and to implement a National Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria—something some in FMCSA and safety advocates have been loath to accept.

NAS provided additional advice to FMCSA, suggesting it consider evaluating both percentile ranks and absolute measures, when making decisions regarding whether to issue a carrier an SMS alert. Presumably, NAS recognized that forcing a percentile number, is akin to grading on a curve. Considering both absolute and percentile scores allows law enforcement to have a bigger, better picture.

Finally, NAS’ review contained one already new and controversial suggestion. NAS, wrote of its desire to see FMCSA collect more operational and financial information on carriers, including compensation style and data, driver turnover and other data that might provide more complexion. The controversy lies in the compensation piece. Ironically, while NAS suggests FMCSA rely more upon data than expert, it ran afoul of its own advice when it referenced an expert opinion that salary drivers are “known to be” safer than drivers paid on a mileage basis. No comprehensive or definitive study on this exists.

We continue to watch this carefully, and will keep our clients posted as to future events. QualifiedCarriers.com provides daily and periodic updates on the quality of data for your carriers, and, if subscribed, keeps your documents and insurance certificates updated. We have many tools to assist you in evaluating your carriers.