FMCSA’s Joe Delorenzo April 29 immediately threw cold water on expectations that the agency might utilize its long-awaited Crash Weighting study as a jumping-off point for its subcommittee meetings this week in Arlington, Va.
At the February meeting of the CSA Subcommittee of the agency’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, regulators said results study could be released well before the meeting that began April 29 and continues April 30.
“I’ll answer first the question everybody wants to ask,” Delorenzo said. “I won’t be able to talk about the results of [the Crash Weighting study]. There’s a report to Congress that hasn’t happened yet.”
FMCSA continues to finalize the report, he added, and Associate Administrator for Enforcement Bill Quade said the report, it’s hoped, will be delivered in June.
The study, into whether the agency will be able to account for crash fault, or accountability, in carrier CSA Safety Measurement System results, is long-awaited and deals in what may be the biggest issue concerning large cross sections of motor carrier communities around the industry.
Other issues also remain front and center, however, from broad concerns over data quality and safety event grouping in the CSA SMS for both large- and small-carrier populations to the growing use of SMS percentile rankings by brokers, shippers, insurance companies and other members of the public in making business decisions about carriers.
Transplace CEO Tom Sanderson, during the public comment period, addressed pointed concerns over FMCSA’s seeming encouragement of such business use of the SMS, citing some large shipper customers who’ve made it a point to tell Transplace that they didn’t want the broker using any carrier with even one BASIC percentile ranking/score above the intervention threshold to haul their freight.
Members of the CSA Subcommittee also expressed continuing skepticism about the appropriateness of such use. Darin Day of broker Tucker Company Worldwide, presented with an example of a small carrier’s safety event group changing after a clean inspection, and its score subsequently shooting well upward, noted that the CSA SMS is “great as a prioritization tool” for law enforcement. But “when you hear about that guy operating and nothing changed” other than the group he’s being compared to and his score got worse, “what use is it to the public?”
“That’s a really big issue on the front line” in the trenches of carrier selection by brokers and shippers, Day added.
The Safety Fitness Determination rulemaking – contrary to DOT’s latest regulatory update schedule – is expected to be published in mid-September, said agency representatives. The SFD will utilize the same data underpinning the CSA SMS — roadside violations and crashes — toward computing a safety rating for carriers. Some view the SFD as potentially resolving some of the issues related to public use of the SMS, given it will be an absolute measure, not grading on a curve in various categories that are easily misinterpreted.
It will grade carriers in a manner similar to “the way that it is today” with carrier safety ratings, said Delorenzo. “Currently, if you have an Unsatistfactory rating and that isn’t corrected in a certain amount of time, your operating authority will be revoked.”
Quade noted that in the best case, full implementation of the SFD would be two years in the making following a September proposal.
Wednesday, April 30, the CSA Subcommittee will discuss and finalize further recommendations for refinement of data quality and issues relating to the interpretation of the SMS by members of the public, among others, to present to the full MCSAC at its next meeting, scheduled now for May 19-20.