Not even the cops want CSA scores public

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 11/26/2014

Joining the ever-building wave of opposition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s publicly viewable safety rating system, CSA, is a group that may surprise some – the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

The international organization of local, state provincial, territorial and federal motor carrier enforcement officials sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx that urges the FMCSA to pull CSA’s scores from public view.

The letter follows one sent by a coalition of 10 industry groups is calling on Foxx to direct FMCSA to pull the plug on publicly viewable CSA safety ratings and a bill introduced by Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., that would direct FMCSA to “revamp” the program.

“Of course, CVSA strongly supports the goal of CSA, which is to implement more effective and efficient ways for FMCSA, its state partners and the trucking industry to reduce CMV crashes, fatalities and injuries,” CVSA Executive Director Stephen Keppler wrote to Foxx.

CVSA’s letter not only echoes many of the concerns raised to date, but also underscores the fact that many of those concerns are rooted in the facts of life of enforcement on the road.

For example, the coalition pointed out that motor carrier enforcement priorities vary state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Keppler wrote that those differences in enforcement practices are necessary to address the varying safety challenges that exist in different jurisdictions. Those variances and the fact that motor carriers are scored by comparing safety performances will affect the accuracy of a motor carrier’s safety rating.

Largely, however, Keppler focused on the relationship between violations, carrier scores and crash risk.

He pointed out that roadside law enforcement has an obligation to enforce all laws and regulations, regardless of the statistical relationship to crash risk. He went on to say that CVSA believes that fleets that commit violations shown to have a relationship with crash risk should be enforced on through the intervention process.

But how to correctly identify those carriers?

Keppler pointed to a Government Accountability Office report that found little to no connection between crash risk and the vast majority of the regulations that CSA tracks, weights and scores violations of to arrive at the publicly viewable compliance ranking.

That report stands in direct conflict with FMCSA research showing a connection between violation patterns and crash risk, he acknowledged.

Keppler said the FMCSA findings “alert us to an important distinction.” He wrote that FMCSA’s analysis is focused on the collective crash risk of all the carriers grouped together within CSA and not individual carrier scores.

FMCSA acknowledged that collective crash rate is not a prediction of the actual crash rate of an individual motor carrier. In fact, 93 percent of the carriers in the research had no crashes in the monitoring period.

“Since the SMS scores are a poor indicator of an individual fleet’s propensity to be involved in a future crash, their utility in providing the public with information about fleets’ safety performance is limited,” Keppler wrote.

In the end, Keppler basically concluded that the CSA scores should be left to be viewed by only the enforcement professionals.

“CVSA feels strongly that law enforcement access to SMS data must not be limited,” he wrote.

Further, Keppler wrote that until FMCSA can arrive at individual scores that accurately reflect an individual carrier’s crash risk, the rankings should not be publicly available.

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