Bill would reform CSA, remove data from public view

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | Thursday, March 19, 2015

A bill in Congress would reform the system that generates safety rankings for motor carriers and force FMCSA to stop publishing inaccurate data.

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., has filed HR1371, the Safer Trucks and Buses Act of 2015, in the House of Representatives. It is similar to the effort he filed in the previous Congress, and it has gained interest in the Senate as well.

The act targets the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Comprehensive, Safety, Accountability program, known as CSA.

It would ensure that covered data about motor carriers is removed from public view. “Covered” data refers to CSA rankings and Safety Measurement System scores and performance data entered into FMCSA databases. Data would remain available to law enforcement.

Since rolling out CSA in 2010, FMCSA has been criticized for painting an inaccurate picture for many motor carriers in part by failing to take crash fault into account and by being unfairly punitive against trucking’s small businesses.

Barletta’s bill calls for FMCSA to revamp CSA and use only 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, specifically if the motor carrier’s vehicle is struck by an intoxicated driver or wrong-way driver, or if the motor carrier’s vehicle is struck while the truck driver is otherwise engaged in lawful operation.

OOIDA and other trade groups have called FMCSA’s logic on CSA flawed. The Association and five truckers have waged a legal battle that challenges FMCSA’s driver inspection data maintained in the Motor Carrier Management Information System, known as MCMIS. The lawsuit would pull CSA and other measurement data from public view and establish a better process for resolving CSA score disputes or inaccuracies.

OOIDA says the Safer Trucks and Buses Act would go a long way toward protecting the accuracy of motor carrier rankings.

“It addresses situations in which the trucker is clearly not at fault in a situation,” OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bowley said.
 
OOIDA credits truckers for keeping their lawmakers informed about how CSA has negatively affected their operations.

“All of these members of Congress that are very active on these issues are active because they’ve heard from truckers and small carriers back in their districts,” Bowley said.

Some key U.S. senators are also interested in reforming CSA and also FMCSA.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., chair of the committee’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, are eyeing their own reform bills.

“The analysis the (CSA) program currently provides does little to improve safety, but has significant economic impacts,” Thune said in a statement to Land Line.

“Concerns raised by the Government Accountability Office, the Department’s inspector general, industry and law enforcement all indicate that the program is headed in the wrong direction,” he wrote.

“We need to take another look at the data inputs, how accident fault is used, and whether there might be a better way to develop a safety partnership. My legislation will create market-driven, voluntary investment in safety technology and practices. This would encourage drivers to complete more thorough pre-trip inspections, and fix minor violations fast without fear of penalties for problems that occur during a driving day. Each element of the bill I hope to introduce soon is designed to improve safety while enhancing the regulator-industry relationship.”

Sen. Fischer’s bill would look at overall reform of FMCSA processes.

See related stories:
Barletta introduces bill directing FMCSA to ‘revamp’ CSA
DOT loses motion to dismiss OOIDA’s driver data lawsuit

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