OOIDA: 'Beyond Compliance' biased toward large fleets

By Jami Jones, managing editor

The congressionally mandated “Beyond Compliance” concept, viewed by many as a “pay to play” or buying-favor enforcement system, has potential to favor large motor carriers according to comments filed June 20 by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Even with the safety measurement system CSA currently undergoing review and possibly facing an overhaul, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on April 20 that posed the concept of tacking a new category onto the program.

Moving quickly on a mandate in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, FMCSA sought comments on a Beyond Compliance program. The idea behind the program is to reward motor carriers that go above and beyond the regulations to ensure safe operation.

The program is to allow recognition, including credit or an improved percentile ranking in CSA, for motor carriers that install “advanced safety equipment;” use enhanced driver fitness measures; adopt fleet safety management tools, technologies and programs; or satisfy other standards that are deemed appropriate by FMCSA.

OOIDA outlined several concerns with the proposed program, including a potential bias toward large fleets and the possibility that the safest drivers and motor carriers will not benefit.

At the core of many of OOIDA’s objections is a motor carrier’s inclusion in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety measurement system Beyond Compliance category just for installing devices rather than because of a company’s reduction in crashes. That, coupled with unproven success of add-on “safety” systems such as speed limiters, has OOIDA skeptical of the accuracy of any sort of reward program improving a CSA score.

The Association’s comments detail a 2015 OOIDA Foundation study that compared large fleets with electronic logs and speed limiters to motor carriers that did not employ the technology.

While the motor carriers with the technology demonstrated better CSA scores compared with motor carriers not using the technology, the crash rates were higher than the motor carriers that did not use speed limiters or electronic logs.

“This effectively demonstrates that compliance with the rules does not necessarily correlate with actual safety,” OOIDA comments state.

Additionally, a dependence on CSA data will leave a skewed picture benefiting large motor carriers if tendencies of roadside inspectors and data sufficiency are not taken into consideration.

“Of great concern to OOIDA is the effect of the program on motor carriers who have no reportable crashes and an insufficient number of inspections in the (Motor Carrier Management Information System or MCMIS) database to create a disadvantage for small carriers by their exclusion from the Beyond Compliance program,” OOIDA’s comments state.

OOIDA reports in its comments that Association members frequently find that when they are inspected, if no violation is found, they are often sent on their way with no “clean” inspection report being filed.

“This is a bias in the proposed program detrimental to small motor carriers,” the comments state.

The Association urges FMCSA to focus on actual crash reduction in any Beyond Compliance program. One that rewards longtime safe drivers and motor carriers rather than propping up the CSA scores of motor carriers with high crash rates just because they are using a new technology. All technology and programs should be evaluated for effectiveness on an individual basis and not accepted conceptually as improving safety on the word of vendors, the Association states.

“Ultimately, the results and recognition awarded under this program should be based on how well the Beyond Compliance action improves a motor carrier’s crash record or maintains a motor carrier’s exemplary crash record,” OOIDA comments state. “Recognition awarded under this program should be withdrawn if those expectations are not fulfilled.”