CSA v. Safestat: Second verse, same as the first

By Jami Jones, managing editor

There’s a lot of pressure on the Comprehensive, Safety, Accountability compliance measurement system the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration now uses to select motor carriers for enforcement.

Last year saw that pressure really amp up with a pair of congressional hearings that eventually spurred not one but two investigations into the program. There is even a lawsuit filed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association that targets the validity of the data used by the Pre-Employment Screening Program. Data that is also used in CSA.

The criticisms faced by the program include data quality, correcting incorrect data, and misinterpretations of the compliance rankings.

These key issues, opponents of the program say, are causing undue harm to the motor carriers – and especially small-business motor carriers, according to OOIDA.

It’s imperative to understand that CSA is essentially designed to be the replacement program for SafeStat. That program also attempted to measure compliance of motor carriers. It assigned “scores” to the drivers, the vehicles and the crash frequency of a motor carrier. They were called SEA scores – short for Safety Evaluation Areas.

Guess what happened to that program?

In 2004 the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, released an audit on the SafeStat program. It can only be described as scathing.

Check out the end-shot of the audit’s recommendations:

We recommended that FMCSA (1) revalidate the SafeStat model; (2) improve systems for correcting inaccurate data and tracking of corrective actions;
(3) expand cautions on the web regarding SafeStat’s use; and (4) establish a plan to improve and ensure the quality of SafeStat data.

Now, do you dare venture to guess what year FMCSA got the ball rolling to develop CSA? If you guessed 2004, you’d be right.

So here we are nearly nine years later, having just completed our second full year under CSA, and the exact criticisms as we had of the SafeStat program still exist.

One doesn’t have to stretch very far at all to see that CSA is simply the second verse, same as the first.   

Let’s just hope that the court, Congress, Office of Management and Budget and the Inspector General don’t fall for the rhetoric and can see it for what it is – a program systemically built on the same flawed foundation as its predecessor. LL