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Report: FMCSA wants to release driver safety data

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration wants authority to release driver safety data, in effect reversing its earlier stance that drivers would not be ranked publicly under the Compliance Safety Accountability program.

The agency is seeking increased regulatory authority over drivers via the next highway reauthorization bill, according to a February Government Accountability Office report to Congress on CSA progress.

“If [FMCSA] gains this authority,” the report reads, “the agency plans to make driver safety data public.”

Asked if the intention was to create a public driver ranking system similar to the agency’s CSA motor carrier percentile ranking system, FMCSA spokeswoman Candice Tolliver said, “The Department of Transportation is committed to working with Congress to address this issue as part of a comprehensive push to update transportation programs and maintain the highest standards of safety for the American public.” Requests for further clarification went unanswered, but sources within the agency and outside confirmed this.

The agency intended years ago to go public with driver data, said John Hill, FMCSA administrator from 2006 to 2008.

“There was a debate among the lawyers in the agency [about if] … the agency had the authority to actually rate drivers,” Hill said. “We thought we’d make it a part of the next highway bill. We wanted to make sure there was authority to do so, and so would minimize any lawsuits that might arise from some interested party that would not agree with rating drivers.”

A source within FMCSA stressed that making public the driver percentile rankings in the Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories of the Driver Safety Measurement System “has always been the long-term vision.”

Currently, drivers are not ranked against their peers in the BASICs, and data from drivers’ inspection histories only is accessible officially by prospective employers through the Pre-Employment Screening Program.

FMCSA has contended the DSMS is an internal tool that will be used only by FMCSA staff during carrier investigations. “Under CSA, individual CMV drivers are not assigned safety ratings,” says the CSA Website, csa.fmcsa.dot.gov.

The agency’s “long-term vision” may be closer to drivers’ initial impressions than the agency’s current stance on the DSMS. The DSMS as a public system would reveal drivers ranked with percentile numbers against their peers and by their moving, log and equipment violations, similar to how motor carriers are ranked under CSA. The DSMS methodology, containing inspection and crash data, is available via csa.fmcsa.dot.gov, searching “DSMS methodology document.”

FMCSA’s recently released draft of its 2011-2016 regulatory plan makes no specific mention of the DSMS. The plan does refer to continuing development of “a methodology to assess the safety fitness of drivers to further identify unsafe drivers who should not be in the industry.” That process is not mentioned, however, in the anticipated outcomes listed in the strategic plan, suggesting achieving the goal could be more than five years away.

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Jeff Crissey is the Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. In his role, Crissey is responsible for maintaining the excellent print editorial product, improving online audience development and increasing CCJ readers’ knowledge of business and safety-related industry issues. Crissey holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Auburn University and has been a member of Randall-Reilly Publishing’s editorial staff for 14 years, where his coverage of industry topics has earned numerous regional and national awards over the years.

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