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Read Our Letter to Secretary Foxx in Response to the Motor Carrier Industry’s Letter Regarding FMCSA’s CSA Program

Dear Secretary Foxx:

On behalf of the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), the thousands of families who have lost loved ones, and the tens of thousands more who have been injured each year in truck crashes, we are writing in response to the August 22, 2014, letter sent to you from members of the motor carrier industry regarding the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. In this letter members of the trucking industry request that the Department, “remove motor property and passenger carriers’ CSA Safety Measurement System scores from public view.” Our organizations and volunteers strongly oppose this request to hide lifesaving safety data from the public. The safety-focused culture engendered by CSA greatly relies on the accountability it produces by making its data publicly available. We urge you to protect the current system and ensure that the CSA Safety Measurement System scores are not removed from public view.

In 2010, the FMCSA replaced their SafeStat Program with the CSA program that includes the Safety Management System (SMS). From the beginning, SMS and CSA were rolled out with the understanding that they would undergo improvements and modifications, and FMCSA has followed this plan. FMCSA has made changes to the SMS system to reflect stakeholder concerns and suggestions. The most recent changes occurred in July 2014, when FMCSA announced a package of enhancements to the SMS website resulting “from feedback solicited from motor carriers, law enforcement personnel, industry representatives and other stakeholders who were given an opportunity to critique various website enhancement proposals.”[1] As changes continue to be considered and made to hone the CSA Program, it is essential that CSA retains the ability to efficiently analyze data for timely intervention, that it is cost effective given FMCSA’s limited resources, that it remains fair to truck crash victims and their surviving family and friends by retaining the current Crash Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) system of including all crashes regardless of fault, and that it includes public access to carrier safety data.

In 2006, the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) was formed to provide advice and recommendations to the FMCSA Administrator on motor carrier safety programs and motor carrier safety regulations. As you know, MCSAC is composed of motor carrier industry stakeholders including industry representatives, law enforcement, family members of truck crash victims, and safety organizations. In MCSAC meetings, when CSA benefits have been discussed, committee members noted that the system “is dispensing more data and giving the agency the ability to reach more carriers without a dramatic increase in resources” and inspiring “the start of a cultural change in the industry by forcing carriers to focus on the details of safety management.”[2] A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on CSA supports this assertion. The report identifies that industry stakeholders have found “that CSA’s greater reach and provision of data have helped raise the profile of safety issues across the industry. According to industry stakeholders, carriers are now more engaged and more frequently consulting with law enforcement for safety briefings.”[3]

Moreover, independent analysis indicates that MCSAC and other industry stakeholders’ assessment is accurate and that the CSA Program is a significant improvement over the prior system. Several key points from FMCSA’s own evaluation include:

  • CSA is effectively monitoring the industry with an interventions model that demonstrates an overall 35 percent increase in the number of carriers reached per Safety Investigator;[4]
  • From the CSA rollout in December 2010 until the end of 2011, violations per roadside inspection declined by eight percent and driver violations per inspection declined by 12 percent;[5] and,
  • Compliance improved while being less intrusive and time-consuming for all motor carriers (both large and small).[6]

These results show the most significant improvement in violation rates in the last 10 years. The advances achieved with the CSA program are necessary and long overdue and should not be modified in ways that will hinder their effectiveness. As with a previous attempt by the motor carrier industry to pressure FMCSA to hide and remove safety data (from the CSA Crash BASIC), removing data from public view will serve to reduce, rather than promote, safety.

The GAO report agrees with CSA’s “data-driven, risk-based approach.”[7] The GAO believes that the CSA “holds promise and can help FMCSA effectively identify carriers exhibiting compliance or safety issues—such as violations or involvement in crashes.”[8] Additionally, the report confirms FMCSA’s claim that the CSA program has helped the agency contact or investigate more motor carrier companies and that it is an improvement over the previous SafeStat system.[9]  Although the GAO did include recommendations to improve CSA in its report, they were issued to help CSA to become a sharper, more useful tool. The GAO never recommended or suggested the removal of the SMS scores from the CSA website.

The next step in enhancing the SMS system is a revised safety fitness determination (SFD) that reaches significantly more carriers than the approximately 12,000 yearly SFDs that FMCSA is currently able to perform through onsite compliance reviews. The SFD will more effectively use FMCSA data and resources to identify unfit motor carriers by analyzing the CSA BASIC data and other performance data to determine a carrier’s level of safety, and will address many of the motor carrier industry’s concerns. Although FMCSA indicated in their August 2014 Significant Rulemakings Report that a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the SFD will be issued in February 2015, we urge FMCSA and DOT to expedite the release of the revised SFD NPRM.

We urge the Department to continue to preserve and improve the efficient and effective CSA program including its essential public access to data which has, in a relatively short time, already helped to elevate the safety culture within the trucking industry. As FMCSA improves the CSA program and expands its data collection and delivery of safety information, we encourage FMCSA to ensure that the results produce greater oversight for both large and small carriers.

Sincerely,

Ed Slattery Board Member, Parents Against Tired Truckers Member, Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee CSA Subcommittee (recently disbanded)

Tami Friedrich Trakh Board Member, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways Member, Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee CSA Subcommittee (recently disbanded)

John Lannen Executive Director, Truck Safety Coalition Member, Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee CSA Subcommittee (recently disbanded)


[1] “FMCSA Announces Enhancements to SMS Website.” Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Duane DeBruyne Office of Public Affairs FMCSA, 25 July 2014. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.

[2] “TopNews.” New Advisory Panel Broadens Access to CSA Planning. Trucking Info Publisher David Moniz, 27  Aug. 2012. Web. 26 Aug. 2014.

[3] United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Federal Motor Carrier Safety: Modifying the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program Would Improve the Ability to Identify High Risk Carriers, GAO-14-114, Feb. 2014, page 14.

[4] FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION BEFORE THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON SMALL BUSINESS, 112th Cong. (2012) (testimony of Wiliam A. Bronrott). Print.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Federal Motor Carrier Safety: Modifying the Compliance, Safety, Accountability Program Would Improve the Ability to Identify High Risk Carriers, GAO-14-114, Feb. 2014, page 31.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., page 13.