The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implemented its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program in December of 2010. Its purpose was to be a method of measuring safety and regulation compliance on the road, with a goal decreasing truck-involved accidents.
The program allows commercial vehicle owner-operators to view their safety efforts because it is based upon a scoring system, which trucking professionals can view.
Scores are made by analyzing an owner-operator’s safety events and then categorizing them into Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvements Categories (BASICs). There are seven BASICs of safety: Unsafe Driving, Crash Indicator, Hours-of-Service Compliance, Vehicle Maintenance, Controlled Substances/Alcohol, Hazardous Materials Compliance, and Driver Fitness.
After being placed into a category, an event is given a weighted score based on when it occurred and its severity. FMCSA’s Safety Management System (SMS) receives this data on a monthly basis.
If owner-operators have a score of 65 or above, they will receive a warning letter from the Motor Carrier Early Intervention protocol, which allows them to correct issues before law enforcement must intervene. The lower the score, the better an owner-operator’s overall safety is considered.
Presently, CSA is made of three components: the Safety Measurement System, interventions, and a Safety Fitness Determination Rating System.
So, 10 years later, is the system still beneficial? Currently, there are concerns about its ability to reduce fatal commercial vehicle-involved crashes.
“Despite the best of intentions, CSA has not moved the crash reduction needle in the right direction,” said Dave Osiecki, Scopelitis Transportation Consulting president. “Is it time for FMCSA to consider a new and different approach to CSA, and perhaps more generally?”
Scopelitis recently presented FMCSA’s latest data, showing that the rate of truck-involved fatal crashes per 100 million miles traveled actually grew from 1.14 in 2010 to 1.42 in 2017. The rate of truck-involved injuries per 100 million miles traveled within the same period has also risen from 19.5 to 34.4.
“When I looked at [the data], it’s pretty clear that CSA hasn’t met [its] objective,” said Osiecki.
Although 2018 and 2019’s results have yet to be released, it is clear they won’t be an improvement from years past. Because of this, Jim Mullen, Acting Administrator of FMCSA, said he is urging the agency to focus on reversing a four-year increase in the number of truck-involved fatalities.
However, the data may not be so easily comparable from year to year. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety research director, Shaun Kildare, said the trucking industry was hit by the recession in 2009 and had low numbers of miles traveled, and that between 2016 and 2017, the way FMCSA collected data changed drastically.
“What CSA can do is limited by the amount of enforcement and touches by the agency and the industry,” he explained. “There are about 560,000 carriers that FMCSA regulates. Of that total, in reality, they may only audit and touch as many as, let’s say, 50,000 carriers.”
Additionally, Steve Bryan, SambaSafety Transportation executive vice president and general manager, said there have been further changes for truckers, especially with the usage of new technology and the changes to Hours-of-Service rules. “The environment that truckers operate in–the distractions from cell phones and the fatigue–is extraordinarily worse than it was 10 or 12 years ago.”
Currently, FMCSA is working toward implementing an improved manner of evaluating CSA with a technique called Item Response Theory, a method currently used to evaluate programs in the health and airline industries.
IRT uses data to score highway and roadside inspection violations, and FMCSA said it will know by September 2020 whether or not the method is applicable to CSA.
“I believe the IRT model does a much better job of identifying those motor carriers that have a high crash rate,” Bryan explained, as he has previously run models using IRT. “I wish they’d implement the darn thing.”
American Trucking Associations vice president, Dan Horvath, is less than assured that the methodology will end up helping the industry.
“Truck crashes have gone up,” he said. “But, I don’t believe that an improved CSA program will be the single solution to reducing truck crashes. I certainly believe that an improved program can be part of the broader picture to reduce crash risk.”