A bill that made its way into the U.S. House last week — and being pushed by broker group Transportation Intermediaries Association — could be a small victory for trucking companies, says TIA’s Chris Burroughs.
The bill, he says, could limit the role of FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program and its use by third parties to hire or otherwise make judgments about trucking companies.
Carriers are losing business over CSA, he said. “Obviously there is this dark cloud out there that is CSA, and it’s hurting carriers’ business,” he said.
Lawsuits against shippers and brokers in recent years have exacerbated that problem, Burroughs said. Lawsuits alleging negligent selection of carriers — based on the fact that certain carriers were chosen by shippers or brokers despite the carriers’ percentile rankings in CSA’s Safety Measurement System BASICs — give cause for concern to carriers and shippers and brokers.
“Courts are holding these companies liable for millions of dollars, because they’re saying CSA scores should be just as much a part of carrier selection process” as items pushed by the recent House bill.
CSA rankings, he said, shouldn’t play a big role in a broker’s or shipper’s process in choosing a carrier — and that’s where the recent H.R. 1120 comes into play.
The bill would establish standards for carrier hiring, which would include checking their registration status with the DOT, ensuring they hold the federally required minimum amount of liability insurance and checking their safety status — satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory.
The standards would be put more in place not the bolster those three criteria, but instead to remove the stigma among shippers and brokers, the general public and the courts that CSA is a proper tool to use when hiring carriers.
TIA noted in its announcement of the bill last week that it hopes to make CSA be seen as solely an enforcement tool for regulators, rather than a determination about carriers’ safety and their worthiness to be hired.
Though the bill was introduced as a standalone, Burroughs said he and his group hope to have it rolled in to any upcoming highway reauthorization bill — which could be as soon as May 31, when highway funding will run dry.
Congress must pass legislation prior to that date or otherwise the country’s Highway Trust Fund will go bankrupt.
Trucking groups, however, could push for inclusion of language in any upcoming highway funding legislation that would take TIA’s request a step further: removal of the CSA rankings from public view. Both ATA and OOIDA, along with a bevy of other groups, have called on the DOT to do so in recent months.
And a bill introduced in Congress last year would have forced FMCSA to remove the scores until a Safety Fitness Determination rule is enacted.