CSA goes live with new name
Most motor carriers unranked in new SMS
With a federal appeals court clearing the way, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration flipped the switch Dec. 12 on its long-awaited new enforcement initiative and renamed it the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program. Previously, CSA had been called Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010. On that date, FMCSA replaced SafeStat, which the agency had used for more than a decade, with the Safety Measurement System (SMS). FMCSA on Dec. 12 uploaded November SMS data to its Analysis & Information website (http://www.ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/sms).
The CSA launch came as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected an effort to block the program or at least the public release of CSA metrics. On Nov. 29, three associations representing motor carriers – the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, The Expedite Alliance of North America and the Air & Expedited Motor Carriers Association – had asked the court to grant an emergency stay to block the data release at least until the agency completed a full rulemaking. The groups argued, among other things, that due to fears over crash liability, shippers and brokers likely would stop using carriers that had alerts in the SMS and that for practical purposes the rankings and alerts represented safety fitness determinations.
In response, FMCSA told the appeals court that the groups’ claims of disastrous consequences were without merit and that fundamentally the SMS data to be made public was no different than SafeStat data that has been public for more than a decade.
“Petitioners have not satisfied the stringent standards required for a stay pending court review,” a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court said in its order. The court did not elaborate except to cite one court case and the court’s own handbook of procedures. The lawsuit will now proceed under the normal process of briefing.
A fraction of all carriers
According to a CCJ analysis of the November SMS data, barely 12 percent of motor carriers are ranked in any of the five Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) that are disclosed to the public. (The Cargo-Related and Crash Indicator BASICs are, for now, withheld from the public due to agency concerns that the data could be misleading.) FMCSA plans to use rankings to target interventions under its new graduated process, which starts with warning letters and escalates potentially to full-blown compliance reviews.
Of the 92,184 carriers that are ranked in at least one BASIC, 52,967 carriers have at least one alert, meaning they exceeded the threshold for intervention. The Fatigued Driving BASIC has the greatest number of alerts at 29,207, followed by the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC at 21,791. The Controlled Substances BASIC had the fewest alerts at 3,605. And while more than 705,000 carriers have no alerts at all, 164 carriers have alerts in all five public BASICs.
The majority of carriers are unranked because FMCSA set minimum thresholds of inspections to be considered within BASIC safety event groups. Those floors vary, but generally carriers must have three to five inspections in the past 24 months to be ranked in a BASIC.
Carriers can draw an alert, however, without exceeding the percentage threshold in the BASIC or even without being ranked at all. A serious violation within 12 months also can lead to an alert. A serious violation is one in which non-compliance is so severe that immediate corrective action is necessary or the violation directly relates to the carrier’s management and/or operational controls, FMCSA says.
Most alerts are attributable to exceeding the percentile ranking, but that’s not true in the Controlled Substance BASIC. More than 3,000 of the 3,605 alerts in that BASIC result from serious violations.
What happens now?
The litigation surrounding CSA is not over. The appeals court ordered the three groups suing FMCSA to file their initial briefs in the case by Feb. 7. FMCSA would have until March 9 to respond.
Meanwhile, the American Trucking Associations has asked the agency to make a number of changes to ensure that BASICs accurately predict crash risk.
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