Coalition to FMCSA: First things first; overhaul CSA

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | Thursday, March 03, 2016

A plan to tie a determination on whether a motor carrier is fit to operate in interstate commerce to CSA data isn’t going over very well with a coalition of 35 national and state transportation trade associations.

The Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety compliance and enforcement program, CSA for short, is no stranger to criticism and calls for reform. In its latest attack, Congress demanded reform of the program in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST Act, signed into law December 2015.

The act calls for a complete overhaul of the program. Included in the mandate is a comprehensive study of the program by the National Research Council of the National Academies to determine the ability of the program to, among other things, accurately identify high-risk carriers and predict future crash risk. Following that study and subsequent report to Congress, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is to develop and implement a corrective action plan for the program, addressing any identified shortcomings.

Less than two months after the passage of the FAST Act into law, FMCSA unveiled its proposal to revamp the carrier safety fitness determination process. The agency is proposing to scrap the current system that labels carriers as satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory based on compliance reviews. Instead, the agency now wants to tie just one rating, “unfit,” to CSA data, compliance reviews or a combination of the two.

That proposal apparently isn’t sitting well with transportation trade groups.

The coalition, which includes the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, sent a letter on March 1 to the leadership of the appropriations committees in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The letter urged Congress to strip funding from the agency that would be used to implement the proposed carrier rating program.

The coalition letter states that the groups believe FMCSA should complete the reforms to CSA before proceeding to a new method of evaluating safety fitness of carriers. In the meantime, the coalition wants the current safety fitness rating system to remain in place.

In recommending legislative language for the 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, the coalition is seeking to prohibit FMCSA from moving forward with the rating plan.

“Our major concern with the proposal is that the new proposed methodology utilizes flawed CSA/SMS data and scores, which pursuant to the FAST Act Congress has directed the agency to completely overhaul just two months ago. As representatives of the commercial motor vehicle operator industry representing property and passenger carriers, this does not make sense,” the coalition’s letter states.

“While we support the goal of an easily understandable, rational safety fitness determination system, this proposal is built on a flawed foundation.”

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