Rep. Sam Graves knocks down attempt to keep CSA scores public

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | Thursday, November 05, 2015

Responding to criticism of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety measurement system, lawmakers in the House crafted a highway bill that pulls CSA scores from public view while the program undergoes review and possible modification.

Truckers, lawmakers and even the government’s own Government Accountability Office agree that CSA needs to be fixed. While its intent is commendable in attempting to identify high-risk carriers before they crash, the program is unable to execute the goal. In fact, industry stakeholders like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say the program wrongly targets small motor carriers and causes hardship for their businesses.

The Surface Transportation Restoration and Reform Act of 2015 – the House version of the highway bill – includes Section 5223 that pulls CSA scores from public view while a mandated independent study by the National Research Council of the National Academies is conducted.

The section also mandates that the scores remain pulled from public view until any identified deficiencies in the program are modified and addressed.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., submitted an amendment to the highway bill that would have stripped that language and kept the CSA scores public while the study was being completed.

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., stepped up and spoke in opposition to Frankel’s amendment, leading to a voice vote defeat of her amendment.

“(The Frankel) amendment literally just guts some very crucial reforms to this bill,” Graves said on the House floor. “This amendment strikes a section in the bill that requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to remove from its website those Compliance, Safety, Accountability program scores.

“What we found is CSA is a very flawed system, it treats safe carriers unfairly and has done very little to improve motor carrier safety,” he went on to say. “The Government Accountability Office and the motor carrier stakeholders have been very critical of the CSA program; they’ve called for the reform. So what this does is make sure those reforms are going to happen quickly.

“This does not hide anything. Once those reforms are in place, the scores are going to go back up on the website. … (Data) will be available to law enforcement if they need to investigate or prosecute an unsafe motor carrier. So nothing is being hidden. But what this does is require that these reforms are going to take place, and they are going to take place very, very quickly.”

Later in the day on Wednesday, Graves stepped up in opposition to another amendment, this one offered by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. The lawmaker proposed an amendment to the highway bill that would have removed language mandating a study on liability insurance requirements before FMCSA could pursue a rulemaking seeking to increase those requirements.

Graves pointed out to members of the House that the highway bill provides a transparency into any attempt by FMCSA to raise liability insurance requirements and doesn’t allow the rulemaking to simply happen without public disclosure of justification.

“Congressman Graves obviously has his hand on the pulse of small-business trucking,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said.

“His district has countless truckers and trucking operations, and it’s apparent that not only are they communicating with him, he’s listening. This is a perfect example of what kind of leadership truckers can expect when they actively and routinely communicate with their lawmakers.”

Spencer used Graves’ understanding of CSA problems as an example.

“The CSA program needs to be fixed. And sharing bad information with the masses is the worst thing that could be going on. It’s as simple as this: Garbage in, garbage out,” Spencer said. “The Congressman was spot on with his breakdown of the problems with the program and the bad situation it puts small-business truckers in.

“It’s that understanding that helped Graves hand the misguided amendment its defeat.”

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