Sen. Fischer on public CSA scores: There shouldn't be an app for that

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 4/10/2015

While CSA rankings remain heavily criticized by lawmakers, industry and the GAO, one lawmaker is challenging why the agency has made those rankings more accessible with a phone app.

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., fired off a list of questions and concerns about CSA methodology and FMCSA’s new smartphone app, QCMobile, in a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx dated Thursday, April 9.

Fischer wants to see the QCMobile app, launched by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 17, include disclaimers to explain that Safety Management Scores (SMS) are flawed.

SMS data helps populate agency’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, CSA, which scores motor carriers on various aspects of road safety and compliance with federal regulations.

Access to CSA scores allows shippers and customers to make decisions about the motor carriers they hire.

A program like CSA can only be as good, or as bad, as the methodology and data used to rate the carriers.

In February 2014, the U.S. Government Accountability Office published a report that found the minimum data requirements used to trigger an SMS score for a motor carrier were not sufficient to produce reliable scores, something Fischer pointed out in her letter to Foxx.

“GAO found that inaccuracies in SMS methodology led FMCSA to incorrectly identify as at-risk carriers who were not subsequently involved in accidents,” Fischer stated. “Inaccurate SMS scores cost business contracts, encourage litigation, and have the potential to negatively impact safety on our nation’s roads.”

Fischer’s letter contained five questions that she would like to see answers to.

  • Does FMCSA intend to offer easily identifiable disclaimers in QCMobile regarding the flawed SMS scores?
  • What was the cost incurred by FMCSA in developing QCMobile?
  • Given the serious flaws with the CSA methodology, why was developing QCMobile a priority for FMCSA?
  • Does FMCSA intend to collect user data? If so, for what purpose will FMCSA use this data?
  • Does FMCSA intend to develop other applications for mobile devices?

“Given GAO’s findings and the questions raised by members of Congress and stakeholders, I have serious concerns about FMCSA’s release of the app and the agency’s decision to use resources to enhance public access to inaccurate data,” Fischer stated.

Fischer chairs the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security within the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., told Land Line in a recent statement that CSA analysis “does little to improve safety, but has significant economic impacts.”

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., has filed HR 1371, the Safer Trucks and Buses Act of 2015, which targets reforms in the CSA program. The bill also wants to ensure that certain SMS scores be removed from public view but remain available to law enforcement.

Barletta’s bill calls for CSA to only use data “determined to be predictive of motor carrier crashes” in its scoring mechanism. It would prohibit the use of data from crashes in which the motor carrier was not at fault.

OOIDA supports efforts from Barletta, Fischer and Thune to reform CSA.

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