Scrutiny of CSA taken to the next level

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The ever-increasing criticism of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s compliance enforcement program reached a tipping point last week when a pair of lawmakers called on the DOT’s Inspector General to initiate an audit on the program.

The Comprehensive, Safety, Accountability program – dubbed CSA – drew heavy fire during a recent hearing of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. And it wasn’t the first time. Before the Sept. 13 Highways and Transit hearing, the program was also the subject of a Senate hearing and has had lawmakers calling on the agency for revisions to the program.

Highways and Transit Committee Chairman Rep. John J. Duncan, R-TN, and Ranking Member Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, are now asking the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General to initiate an audit of the program.

“During your audit, I urge you to fully explore the reliability, accuracy and significance of carriers’ CSA scores. … These scores impact not only the effective and efficient use of federal and state resources, but the safety-based decisions made by those who ship our nation’s freight with motor carriers,” an Oct. 12 letter to the Inspector General from Duncan and DeFazio states.

The letter includes a list of questions the lawmakers want the Inspector General’s office to look into and report the findings in the audit.

Many of the questions relate to issues raised by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Center to all concern with the Association is the actual relationship between CSA compliance rankings and actual crash risk.

The lawmakers want the Inspector General to determine if motor carriers with rankings that prompt an intervention are really at a higher risk of being in a wreck than any other company. Additionally, the pair wants a breakdown of future crash risk associated with violating various safety regulations.

The accuracy of data is also another target for the audit, according to the list of questions.

“FMCSA makes carrier’s scores public so that third parties involved in the transportation industry can make safety-based business decisions,” the pair poses in the questions for the Inspector General. “Given your findings, is a carrier’s CSA score an accurate portrayal of the safety of the carrier? If so, is this accurate for all BASICs?”

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