Well, the time has come and is no surprise to anyone. And now the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has come out stating it. While they reported that the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, is structurally sound, they have recommended that pieces of the law be brought back to the drawing board.
As the industry had hoped would happen, carrier “scores” will remain private in several states. It all came down to an impact study that would need to be carried out before they came forward with that recommendation.
From trucking advocacy organizations to shippers and freight brokers, pretty much everyone was unhappy about some portion or another of the CSA program. Indeed, it came to a head when the information was pulled from public view for fear of being too damaging or even inaccurate. It brought up claims of targeting.
But what does this all mean?
What this essentially signals is that there will begin a lengthy overhaul of the work the Obama administration did to change how trucking regulations were enforced. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) tested CSA in various states before a national rollout, which was met by backlash from all corners.
Still, the Academy still reported the program as being “sound.” But what does this mean for its future? The Academy went on to specifically state that, “for the most part, that the current SMS implementation is defendable as being fair and not overtly biased against various types of carriers, to the extent that data on MCMIS [Motor Carrier Management Information System] can be used for this purpose.”
The questions surround this MCMIS, which houses a lot of data. Many want to know how that data will be used. Data from several sources, whether they be inspections data, carrier registrations or otherwise, it will all be stored there, and motor carriers want assurances their data is both safe and won’t be used for nefarious purposes.
One thing the Academy acknowledged was that in most cases many factors contribute to a crash. Many of these factors cannot be currently found in the MCMIS, so the crashes can sometimes be improperly logged.
Because of their findings, the Academy went on to advise that the FMCSA should “develop a more statistically principled approach for the task, based on an item response theory model, an approach that has been applied successfully in informing policy decisions in other areas such as hospital rankings,” the NAS said. If that new statistical model performs well in identifying unsafe carriers, “FMCSA should use it to replace SMS.”
Used as an Enforcement Mechanism
When viewed through the lens of enforcement, there are many principles of CSA that are quite appropriate and do come with good intent. Trucking companies do acknowledge it serves as a valuable enforcement tool, but is not without its problems.
Enforcement mechanism or no, the push to keep the scores out of the public domain remains in full force. The main problem is with data reporting and accuracy. Many industry trade groups openly question how accurate the data is.
Some argue that everything to this point as been done on ad hoc basis, specifically when It comes to fleet crash data. As we work through the system, they argue that there is a risk to exposing incorrect data and the Academy researchers essentially agreed.
Specifically, they pointed to problems with the quality of the data and asked that the FMCSA look to even more data points, such as data on miles traveled, truck driver employment rates, and more, since such data could shed light on the overall problem.