The National Academy of Sciences released a report, Improving Motor Carrier Safety Measurement, which confirmed much of what the Truck Safety Coalition has been saying about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) carrier rating system and truck safety in general:
- The CSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) is “conceptually sound,” and
- That well-compensated drivers and drivers who are not paid per miles travelled, have fewer crashes.
Our goal is to reduce truck crashes, prevent injuries, and save lives, which is why we have always supported continuous improvement to make the rating system even more effective in determining which motor carriers are safe and which motor carriers pose a risk to public safety. By embracing a more data-driven method of scoring the safety of motor carriers, the agency can build on the success of CSA and continue to enhance it. Additionally, transitioning to a more statistically principled approach will make the program more transparent and easier to understand, further justifying why both the data as well as the rankings should be public.
The report also underscores a need for improved data collection by and collaboration between motor carriers, states, and the FMCSA. The agency should enhance data collection regarding vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by trucks, and can do so by working with relevant tax agencies given that all motor carriers report their VMT for tax purposes. The FMCSA can also improve data collection regarding crashes by continuing their efforts to standardize post-accident reports that vary state-by-state, an effort that I have worked on as a member of the FMCSA’s Post-Accident Report Advisory Committee.
While the report highlights opportunities for the FMCSA to improve CSA’s SMS, members of the industry must recognize their own responsibilities and role in improving this safety rating system. Collecting data on “carrier characteristics,” including driver turnover rates, types of cargo hauled, and the method and level of driver compensation, will allow the agency to establish a fuller and fairer determination of safety. This requires motor carriers to share even more data, not attempt to hide it.